Come Back Strong for Fall 2021:

Your Post-Pandemic Planning Guide

Yamaha Educator Suite: Program Health, Professional Development, MusiEdNow


Here is a Post-Pandemic Guide to get school music programs on track, courtesy of Yamaha Music USA and MusicEdNow….

Your program may have taken a toll this past year and rebuilding it will be challenging, but you are not alone. We are here to walk beside you and help you every step of the way to bring back the music!

Our guide has a singular focus: Rebooting and reinvigorating your recruitment and retention efforts. [Every two weeks] we will provide goals, ideas, action items, checklists and advocacy materials that you can use to get your administration, staff and, most importantly, prospective students excited about music making.

What Should You Expect?

Throughout the spring semester, you should expect to receive relevant content to help you prepare for the upcoming school year. This might include talking points for an impactful conversation with your principal, recruiting and retention ideas, and creative tools to ensure that music remains a cornerstone in your school in life after COVID-19.

Like anything you hope to strengthen, your recruiting program can benefit from regular “workouts.” We’ve built a 16-week training plan to guide you through the rest of the school year, breaking action items into manageable to-dos and helping you finish strong, with a full, robust program for Fall 2021.

Whether you’ve been with us from the beginning or are just finding us now, feel free to join in! Our plan is meant to build on itself in a logical way, so actions you take in Session 1 will pay off in successive sessions. However, each session is also a complete package, so you can also zero in on the session topic that you need help with the most.

Perhaps you have some thoughts on how we can improve the Post-Pandemic Planning Guide, awesome content that’s helped you or want to share what you are doing now to prepare for Fall 2021. Drop us [Yamaha] a line here — we’d love to hear from you!

Session 1

GOAL: Lay the Groundwork

This session is all about laying the groundwork. Our goal is to uncover any roadblocks that might present themselves later in the spring and to ensure that music has a voice at the table as plans are made for 2021-22. Have you considered these items to prepare for the fall?

Lay the groundwork

▢ Touch base with your building administrator or principal to determine your teaching schedule for the coming school year as well as what needs to happen to have a successful recruiting season. Here is an email template to kick off that conversation and checklist of items to consider to ensure you are prepared for this conversation.

  • Remember: When framing your conversation with your administrator, be sure to present your solutions in the context of what’s best for the students.

▢ You may need to remind your administrator why music is a crucial part of the curriculum. Here is an example of a presentation successfully used by teachers in Lincoln, NE to ensure continued support of music programs.


We all know recruiting is 24/7, but it is more important than ever to be focused, organized and proactive. Here is a recruiting tip or action item … to help and inspire you. Our tip … is:

▢ Start collecting written and virtual testimonials from your parents and students about the importance of music in their lives. These can be outstanding materials to help you recruit later in the semester. Here is a sample email letter you can use to collect these testimonials.

Resource Roundup

If you are looking for some more resources to help you with these conversations and to-do items, here are a few you might consider:


Involve the community

Session 2

For this session, we’re focused on setting the table for credible, impactful conversations with your building principal, school board members and elementary school teachers. It’s important that we proactively share information with key decision-makers to ensure our program’s voice is heard throughout the spring and the entire decision-making process.

Let’s Talk Minimizing Risk in Music

There is still a great deal of concern relating to the spread of COVID-19 in our schools, so it’s important that we are prepared to address this head on. Fortunately, there are significant studies underway that directly address how to minimize risk in the music classroom. Here are the key takeaways from the most recent findings in a long and abbreviated format.

  • It’s important we use the appropriate vocabulary when communicating these findings. These measures do not make music “safe,” but rather, “significantly reduce risk,” in some cases by up to 90%. We want to ensure that we are communicating this information accurately.

We also want to communicate this information to our key decision makers in an easy-to-follow format, so that they can make the best decision possible. Don’t assume they know what you know! Here is an email template you can use to communicate this important information about safety measures to your decision makers.

GOAL: Get Your Community Involved

It’s vitally important that our community supports the arts, and who better to lead this charge than music teachers? The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) recently launched an initiative called “ARTS ARE EDUCATION.” You can find the press release for this initiative here. This is an easy, turnkey way to share the importance of music with your community and gather support.

Get your community involved:

▢ Take the ARTS ARE EDUCATION Pledge. Click here to do so.

▢ Ask parents to take the ARTS ARE EDUCATION pledge.

▢ Involve your building administration and build support for the arts by making them aware of this initiative. Here is an email template you can use to open the conversation.

▢ Request time (or enlist a few passionate band parents!) to speak to your school board about the importance of music education and ask them to support the ARTS ARE EDUCATION initiative by signing the pledge.

  • Budget decisions are already underway. Parents asking the school board to pledge support of the arts makes music a budgetary priority.

RECRUITING TIP: It’s Elementary

Recruiting can never start too early, and elementary school music teachers are a great ally in this activity. Here are some things to do now to kick-off recruiting alongside your elementary school teacher:

▢ Begin collecting student testimonials to share later with prospective students at the elementary school. Current students can use Flipgrid or another recording software to record a few lines about why they joined band, orchestra or choir. Here’s an example.

▢ Arrange with the teachers of the elementary programs to meet with their classes via Google Meet or other platform to provide an engaging session on “exciting music opportunities at the middle school.” This would be a great time to share videos of current high school or middle school students having fun making music! For now, just get a date set. We will send some content ideas in our next blast, but here’s a sneak peak of some great ideas if you’d like to get started.

Step-by-step, we are going to get back to making music, together!


Session 3

We hope you’ve found the first two sessions helpful and are taking positive action to build toward a strong Fall 2021. We’ve got your back and are going to walk beside you, step-by-step, in bringing back the music!

  1. engaging another key stakeholder — your counselors,
  2. continuing to build momentum in our recruiting efforts and
  3. incorporating activities specifically designed to retain our beginning students

GOAL: Tap into Your Counselor

Work with school counselors

In Session 1, we outlined a conversation with your building principal that will help you plan for the coming year. This week, we turn our attention to having a similar conversation with your school counselor to determine how you can best partner with them to increase student enrollment.

Important things to consider:

  1. Don’t wait for the counselor to reach out to you: A proactive conversation will determine if there have been procedural or date changes relating to signing up students.
  2. Plan ahead for the conversation. A planned conversation can help you identify any new “landmines” for this fall. Here is a list of considerations to prepare for your meeting.

RECRUITING TIP: It’s Elementary

▢ In Session 2, we encouraged everyone to set a date to speak with students at their elementary school or feeder programs. If you have not already done so, be sure to set up a time.

▢ If it’s time for you to speak, here are 8 Tips for Recruiting you can use, whether the students are participating virtually or in person.


While it’s great that we are getting a jump-start on recruiting for next fall, don’t overlook the importance of retaining the students already in our program. Here is a great resource that provides a “S.M.A.R.T. approach” to retaining the beginners presently enrolled in your program.

Don’t Forget

If you haven’t started yet, now is the time to collect testimonials from your parents and students for use later in the spring for recruiting. This email/letter template from Session 1 can be sent home to encourage students and parents to share their experiences.

Resource Roundup

Save the Date

  • On March 9th at 5 p.m. CST, “After Hours: Conversations for Music Educators” will host a live podcast recording and panel discussion on recruiting ideas for spring 2021. Register for this free Zoom event here.

Let’s keep the momentum going as we build toward a successful start to the upcoming school year!


Recruit recruit recruit

Session 4

This week, we’re focused on recruiting! With spring here, we must have a productive recruiting season to ensure our program is full and vibrant next fall.

In-Person Recruiting Ideas

If you are presently enrolled in in-person learning, here are some great recruiting ideas that we have borrowed from fellow educators.

  • Blitz Week” — Pick a week for a recruiting “blitz” at your feeder programs or elementary school. Hang up posters around the school. Order campaign-style yard signs and place them in the carpool drive-through for parents to read. Welcome students as they are coming in and out of the cafeteria at lunch with a small ensemble performance. Submit a morning announcement or create a video to be played during the school’s morning broadcast. Scheduling a specific “blitz week” can be an effective way to reach incoming students.
  • Drive-thru Instrument Safari — Take a page out of Jacob Campos’ book at Franklin High School and set up a date for parents to do a drive-thru instrument safari. Arrange your high school sections throughout the school parking lot and provide a safari path for parents to navigate with their child and listen to each section. Each section can pick a fun song to play that features their respective instruments. Students can vote on their favorite instruments, and directors can speak with each family after they have completed the safari — all while socially distanced and outside.

Virtual Recruiting Ideas

Teaching virtually doesn’t mean your recruiting efforts will be any less effective as in previous years. Here are some ideas that will ensure next year’s class is as full as ever!

  • Be an Online Guest Artist — Schedule a time to digitally visit your feeder programs to act as a guest teacher or artist for the day. You can show brief videos or demonstrations of each instrument and talk to students about joining the band or orchestra.
  • Utilize Student Videos — Student videos are a great way to recruit future members. Ask students to submit brief videos explaining why they joined the band or orchestra and what they enjoy the most. You can keep it simple or get creative.
  • Drop in a Cameo — The website allows you to create a personalized video featuring television, music and movie stars. Here is a recruiting video Siegel Middle School created featuring Rick from “Pawn Stars

Hybrid & Blended Learning Recruiting Ideas

Many teachers are teaching both online and in-person. Here are some recruiting ideas that translate to both in-person and online learning.

  • Social Media Takeover — Coordinate with your school to do a social media takeover. This can be a great way to live-stream videos from inside your program. Feature your students, programs and accomplishments, and explain why students should join the band or orchestra. Many parents follow the social media accounts of their child’s school, and this can be a great way to reach these parents.
  • Slideshow Presentation — Create a simple and fun slideshow that can be shown in-person or online. Schedule a time to speak with students, either in their homerooms, in a school assembly, during their music class or digitally. A slide show can be a great way to get students excited about joining your program — make sure to feature your current students and highlight accomplishments. You can also take the opportunity to address some of the FAQs that you get, such as can students participate in music and another school activity or club? Here is an example.
  • Phone Calls — While an “old-school” approach, phone calls remain one of the most effective means of recruiting students. Calling parents individually allows you to speak one-on-one with parents to share your excitement about the program and uncover any concerns. Oftentimes, parents want their child to be in the band or orchestra but may have a misunderstanding about the conflicts or other commitments that might prevent them from enrolling their child. Here is a list of FAQs you might receive from parents and a phone script to kick off the conversation.
  • Parks and Rec Programming — A summer parks and rec program is a great way to reach a wide audience and expose students to the joys of playing music. Many of these programs are being scheduled now so that registration can occur later in the spring. Here is more information.

Don’t Forget to Check In

By now, we should be aligned with our building principal and counselor about our plans for next year. If not, a scheduled conversation can help bring everyone up to speed. But it’s important that you check-in regularly. Schedules and decisions can change, so you must be aware of any conversations that could impact your program. A casual conversation to confirm everyone is on the same page ensures that there are no surprises later.

Resource Roundup

By now, we should be aligned with our building principal and counselor about our plans for next year. If not, a scheduled conversation can help bring everyone up to speed. But it’s important that you check-in regularly. Schedules and decisions can change, so you must be aware of any conversations that could impact your program. A casual conversation to confirm everyone is on the same page ensures that there are no surprises later.

  • Be Part of the Music is an outstanding recruiting resource with more recruiting ideas, videos, email templates and even the ability to create a recruiting website for your school.
  • Join “After Hours: Conversations for Music Educators” on March 9th for a panel discussion on recruiting ideas for the spring and summer. Register for this free webinar here.



Session 5

It’s hard to believe, but we are halfway through our recruiting window, so let’s build some momentum heading down the backstretch. Whatever the challenges your program faced this year, let’s push through and work together to bring back the music!

In this session, we’re focused on creative problem-solving! You might have learned your schedule has changed, so we will discuss some alternatives to teaching another music appreciation course. We also discuss new funding opportunities available through ESSRA.

Not Another Music Appreciation Class!

post pandemic session 5

Music educators may be asked to teach or create a non-traditional class to accommodate this year’s master schedule. The first course that often comes to mind is Music Appreciation but here are SEVEN alternatives that can be conducted with minimal funding and still align with music educators’ interests.

If you’re in a position to create an innovative course, talk to your administration about your strengths as a music educator, your students’ needs and how you can utilize facilities that are already available in your school.

Show Me (How to Get) the Money!

As part of the recent COVID-19 relief package, approximately $54.3 billion is already being distributed to support K-12 schools. These funds offered through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) provide schools, including music programs, additional resources to offset the impact of COVID-19.

  • Here is a recent article from National Association for Music Education (NAfME), including ways in which your program may be able to utilize some of the funds.
    • Watch this 10-minute video to find the information for your specific state and learn how your program can benefit.
  • Many districts are not aware of this comprehensive package and how to access it. It is essential to have a conversation with your school principal or the individual responsible for accessing federal funds on your district’s behalf. These decisions are taking place now, so you must communicate your needs to allocate funds to your program.
    • Make an appointment now to meet with your principal.
    • Review this list of suggested items that can be purchased for your program under ESSER guidelines, and get your shopping list ready.
  • Another resource comes out of the Every Student Succeeds Act. One of the most exciting and impactful provisions of ESSA is the availability of Title IV-A funds. These grants are provided to states then re-granted to districts to provide students with additional educational opportunities, courses, healthy and safe schools, and teacher training, equipment, and supplies. There are numerous possibilities for this renewable funding source, and it can indeed alter the trajectory of music education in every school district.
    • Watch this 6-minute video that you can watch to learn about how your district can distribute and use Title IV-A funds.
    • Download the complete Title IV-A Toolkit here.

Retention Tip: The Power of Letter Writing

Mail a letter home to all of your band and orchestra parents and guardians, thanking them for their continued support during this trying time. If you do not already send a weekly or monthly newsletter home, this letter could be an email. If you are already in the practice of sending out regular electronic communication, physically mail this letter. Make it feel different and more unique than your regular communication centered around student achievements, upcoming events and ensemble business.

Recognize that your ensemble parents and guardians are choosing to keep their children involved in an activity that, as Lowell Mason said when he was advocating for music’s place in the school curriculum, helps children “physically,” “intellectually” and “morally.” Implore them to reach out if they have any questions and to keep encouraging their children to work through these unorthodox times because brighter, more musical-filled ones are just around the corner. The discipline and perseverance they display this year will serve the entire program well when those skills are harnessed after the pandemic ends!

Dr. Sarah Labovitz from Arkansas State University is a contributing author of this letter.

Resource Roundup

  • The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education published an excellent FAQ on ESSER funds.
  • The NAMM Foundation has a ready-to-go brochure, “Why Learn to Play Music?” that you can share with parents and guardians.


post pandemic session 6

Session 6

We’re focused on accessing funding for your program in this session. There are a lot of funding opportunities available through the COVID stimulus bills for schools and music programs, and this session will offer a crash course on how to access this funding.

Understanding ESSER

Understanding the lingo allows us to better navigate the opportunities available to you. Here is a crash course on terminology and important dates to consider:

Two large stimulus bills were passed called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020 and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA, sometimes referred to as “CARES Act II”) in December 2020.

As part of these relief bills, money was allocated to support educational needs through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds. This money flows from the federal government to the states, from the states to the districts, and from the districts to individual schools and programs in the form of grants. Because funding is awarded as a grant, it’s crucial that your program and school proactively request this funding, as it can be widely used to support music education. 

  • School districts must apply for ESSER Funds from CARES Act II no later than September 30, 2021
  • School districts must spend ESSER Funds from CARES Act II no later than September 30, 2023

Navigating What’s Available in Your State

ESSER funds move from the federal level to the state level, to the school district level, down to your school. However, to access these funds, you need to know who to ask, for what and when to do it! Let’s take a look at how to navigate the available funds for your state:

  • See what funds are available. Use these resources to see what funds are allocated for your state from round 1 and round 2 of ESSER.
  • Find your State Department guidance on how funds can be used.
    • Each state has issued guidelines on how the funds can be used. Use this resource to find the specific guidance your state provides to local districts.

Prepare for the Ask

Now that you have established what funding may be available to your program, it’s essential to request these funds directly. Because funding is distributed in the form of grants, programs and districts must request the funds and declare the intended usage to receive them.

  • Find your state Director of Arts Education.
    • Use this directory to find your Director.
    • Write to them about your state-level guidance. If Arts and Music are included, thank them. If not, suggest that they work to make sure the guidance consists of Arts and Music so it is crystal clear that these funds can be used.
  • Contact your school district.
    • The request for ESSER funds must be made through your school district, so you must coordinate your needs with your district’s CFO, Assistant Superintendent or whoever traditionally manages grant and federal funds for your district. Use this directory to find contact information if you do not know this person.
    • Share your state’s guidance and address why funds can and should be used for music. Here is a great resource to help make the case.
  • Talk to your Principal and administration.
    • Share information about available funds at the district level and make sure they are applying for these funds. Here is an email template to begin the conversation.
    • Please note that although the funds are dispersed to the district based on the Title I formula, any school can apply for funds from the district, regardless of the individual school’s Title I status.

Using ESSER Funds

ESSER funds are intended to help music programs in several ways, including mitigating the risk of COVID spread, offering supplemental support, and ensuring students have equitable access to music in various learning environments. Here are a few examples of ways that ESSER funds are being used in music classrooms:

  • Instrument cleaning and sanitization
  • Purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE), including mouthpieces, cleaning supplies, masks, and covers
  • Facility and HVAC improvements
  • Instrument purchases to prevent sharing
  • Music learning software packages
  • Digital learning equipment
  • Summer programs and supplemental instructional support

Resource Roundup

Here are some more resources you can use to help you better navigate the process of accessing and utilizing ESSER funds within your program.

  • NFHS recently released its ESSER Funds Guidelines. This document can be found here.
  • The U.S. Department of Education has an online dashboard that shows how ESSER I funds are distributed down to the district level. 
    • If you want to estimate your district’s ESSER II and ESSER III funding, multiply the ESSER I amount by 4 and 10, respectively.
  • “After Hours: Conversations for Music Educators” recently sat down with Yamaha’s Marcia Neel, Dave Gerhart, and Heather Mansell to do a deep-dive on ESSER funds. You can find this podcast episode here
  • Don’t forget that music funding is also available for Title IV, Part A. Here is a toolkit from NAFME on Title IV, Part A funds. 



A Post-Pandemic Guide to get school music programs on track

*** All information taken from and courtesy of Yamaha Music USA: The Yamaha Educator Suite, Program Health, Professional Development, MusicEdNow. Full info HERE ***