“Advocacy.” Sometimes it is an intimidating word. It’s not too fancy, not too hard to spell, but it can feel a bit daunting. We’ve all heard situations where colleagues had to advocate to keep to their programs or where larger communities had to find the data to fight for the arts. Those can be intimidating experiences.
Demystifying “advocacy” is a big part of our job as your Advocacy and Collaboration Standing Committee. So, in today’s blog, we focus on creating the fun association of “a story” with “advocacy.” When you say the word “advocacy” out loud…with a little vowel modification and a slight emphasis on the right syllables, you can almost make it sound like “a story” (go ahead, say it, try it…“Ah-dvoh-cah-see…..ah-stoh-
You know you have that friend who tells the best stories – the ones that keep you interested every step of the way and you reach the end completely engrossed. What makes a good storyteller? It’s a lot of “just enough” but “not too much” combined with “engaging” but “not too pedantic.” A good story is a balance of facts, engagement, and purpose. Why this story? Why does it matter to the listener? Why should time be spent listening to it?
That’s the challenge. Figuring out what stories of our musical/choral/educator lives are worth storytelling. Which data is important and how can it be woven into a story to impact an administrator, donor, or other decision-makers? Let’s get specific on how to customize your story:
Are you trying to convince a business to give you money? They may need some heartwarming stories, but stories also tied with facts and figures to show that you’re a solid bet with enough organizational capacity to do the job you’re asking them to invest into.
Trying to recruit new singers? Telling stories about the success of your existing or alumni singers and how they directly correlate their success to participating in your program is key. (For example, do you know how many of your singers use their choir experiences in their college applications or job interviews? That can be both good data and good stories)
Trying to convince your community why they need a choral program? Comparing data and/or cultural inventories with other cities of the same size could be a good starting point (and an excellent chance to collaborate with your colleagues in other areas).
Where do we find our stories? Start with yourself and your singers. That’s where this month’s A&C curated Series on the Music (ed) Matters Podcast (Episode 98) comes in. We welcome ACDA President-elect, Dr. Edith (Edie) Copley, to the show so she can share her story, encourage our individual journeys, and share historical knowledge of where our choral art has come from.
After listening to Dr. Copley’s story, there are really four big life lessons we can all take with us as we pursue our own unique choral journeys:
Trust the process.
Don’t be afraid of new things.
Be willing to try.
Ask the questions.
Enjoy every moment.
In case no one has told you today – your story matters! The path you are on, it’s exactly where you should be, and if you are feeling unsettled, try something new. If you are falling into comparison, stop, and trust your own individual process. And no matter what is going on, find something in this moment to be grateful for. We get this one musical life, create your story, save your favorite moments, and use these stories (the good, the bad, the interesting, the exhilarating) to advocate for your part of the choral world. We believe in you, and if we can help, don’t hesitate to ask. Let’s go tell a story!
Read Dr. Copley’s full bio here.
Watch this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/374m5aWlCp4
(or episode 98 on the “Music (ed) Matters” Podcast wherever you listen to pods).
Dr. Emily Williams Burch chairs ACDA’s Advocacy & Collaboration Committee. Dr. Burch has served in various positions for ACDA at the state, regional, and national level in a variety of roles, including co-programming chair and honor choir coordinator for the Southern Region ACDA conferences since 2014. You can subscribe to her podcast for music educators wherever you get your podcasts, or at EmilyBurch.org/podcast.