We call for strategic partnerships with local organizations to expand and enrich cities’ music ecosystems.

Cities are home to a variety of cultural organizations, and this makes urban centers ideal for strategic partnerships in which city schools and local music organizations work together to expand and enrich students’ access to music opportunities. Strategic partnerships take all sorts of forms and can address specific needs in local contexts.

Most important, partnerships should be evaluated in terms of how successfully they add to the health of the music ecosystem. In what ways does a partnership support an active music life for students in city schools? How does it improve access to services and resources? How well does it fill unmet needs? For partnerships to be effective and beneficial, they must be meaningful, collaborative, and additive.

+ Partnerships must be meaningful

Successful partnerships go beyond surface affiliations and focus on substantial, long-term social change. It is easy to develop relationships that lack substantial commitment and value. A partnership must address social issues in a comprehensive way. Without a deep level of engagement, a partnership will likely fail to benefit its students and its community.

+ Partnerships must be collaborative

Partnerships, by their very nature, cannot exist in isolation from other elements of the ecosystem, and an organization that fails to collaborate with other ecosystem members will be significantly less effective. Partners must prioritize communication-even when it is challenging-and identify common goals. Schools and local organizations should recognize how each contributes to the development of a healthy music ecosystem.

Communication and goal-setting are particularly vital where community organizations serve students in the classroom during school hours. In-school teaching artists should enhance classroom instruction and contribute to the curricular and developmental goals of the school and district, and music and classroom teachers should be prepared to review these goals and check in regularly to monitor student growth. Out-of-school partnerships should also develop and maintain communication with their local schools, determining how their work can support students' musical, educational, and social development.

+ Partnerships must be additive

Partnerships with community organizations do not replace music education during school hours; they should supplement-not supplant-sequential, high-quality music education. A community music organization's goal is to enrich students' music lives, to "fill in the gaps" by providing the services or opportunities that school programs do not. Partner organizations should be responsive to the needs of a school or district, and might provide:

  • Private lessons and coaching
  • One-on-one mentorship
  • Expertise in performance
  • Supplemental or specialized instruments and/or resources
  • Small group ensembles
  • Instruments, genres, and styles not taught in school
  • Instruction for special-needs students
  • Ensembles focusing on challenging repertoire (i.e. youth symphonies)
  • Professional development for music teachers
  • Care during non-school hours (before- and after-school and weekends)
  • Access to resources such as food, transportation, and health services *

Partnerships do not simply provide “extra resources”: they can become important sources of influence in the city music ecosystem. Partnerships can spur schools and districts to invest and expand music opportunities for city students. Moreover, they affirm the dignity of city students by demonstrating that these students are included and valued in their city’s social and cultural life.


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