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More to Start, Fewer to Quit | September 2023

This month’s MSFQ tips come from Dr. Sarah Labovitz, the Director of the Hugh A. Glauser School of Music, at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.


Help recruit new ensemble students by actively recruiting their parents and guardians. Have current ensemble parents and guardians think about who they know in your beginning ensemble’s grade and ask them to reach out to their friends and offer to answer any questions about the beginning ensemble process. Build a parent and guardian Q & A with current ensemble parents and guardians answering the questions into your recruitment night. Actively cultivate and advertise your ensemble parent and guardian culture as a selling point to would be ensemble parents and guardians.


Prioritize letting your students know that you care about them not only as musicians, but as people. There are many little ways to additively accomplish this goal, but it is essential to accomplish because, as President Theodore Roosevelt said, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” You could greet students as they enter your room with a smile or a high five. You could ask them questions about what they like to do, watch, or listen to in their free time. You can speak to them like you would want to be spoken to, without exception. You could not require a practice entry on the day of a huge school event that they all will participate in. You could know when they have testing or homecoming activities and limit the amount of after school commitments that week. You could ask them how they are doing and listen intently as they answer.

Commit to demonstrating care in your ensemble classroom. This is a low-risk, high-benefit activity that often goes overlooked when performances come fast and furiously in the fall. Not only will it help to improve the communication and understanding between you and individual students but it will help to build a kind and supportive community atmosphere within your program.


Now that the school year is underway, take some time to evaluate how effective, or ineffective, communication has been between you at school and home. How have you endeavored to communicate important information to parents and guardians? Do you have any evidence that those efforts have been successful or unsuccessful? Assess what you are doing and if it is working as you intended. If you get several phone calls or emails asking for information or for information to be clarified, that is evidence that you need to evaluate what you are doing to get information from the classroom to home.

Sometimes the issue is the method of communication. Maybe you are writing terrific email newsletters, but you are teaching in an area in which internet is not reliably in every one of your students’ homes. Maybe you are making beautiful reminders to send home in your student’s folders, but your students aren’t remembering to make the hand off to their parents and guardians at the end of the day. Ask your administration or veteran teachers in building what ways of communicating which with they have found success and make changes appropriately.

Sometimes the issue is the message in the communication. If you are requesting information, is the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the response clear? If you are giving information, are you being clear and succinct? Make sure to write with correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Keep formatting clean so that your message can come through without extra effort. If you worry with any aspect of the messaging, try to get another set of eyes on it for editing before you communicate it out.

In addition to messages always needing to be relayed, reliable and accurate communication is a way to build trust, belonging, and understanding within your program. Those things are essential and if you aren’t communicating effectively, it will be hard to accomplish the goals you have set for the year. Some time spent early in the year improving communication will pay dividends the entire year through.

Wishing you and your students a wonderful school year!

Sarah J. Labovitz, DMA
School of Music
Kent State University

Repost from: Music Achievement Council

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