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Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, January 2, 2012


The PMC Quick Note is part of our mission to support the lives of band directors across the Midwest. The Quick Note contains helpful tips and suggestions from area directors, spotlights on area college and university band programs, calendars of upcoming events, advocacy articles promoting music education, links to helpful web resources, and much more.  Comments, suggestions, ideas, and articles are always welcome.


Looking for help on a particular topic? Be sure to check out our Quick Note Catalog of back issues!

Do You Have A Publicist?
This article was written and submitted by Paul Copenhaver.

The following statement is from a post accompanying a YouTube video of a Missouri all-district band I stumbled across recently.  “Seth again made the all district band. He plays the Tuba and got 2nd chair. He was the only one from Ourtown to make it. Seth was the only one last year from Ourtown as well. It never hits the newspaper but I thought it would be nice for me to, at least, give him credit here.”

It is too bad someone apparently didn’t take the time to publically recognize this student’s accomplishment.  In a perfect world, the local newspaper’s music editor would have covered this story.  Maybe the local radio could have sent someone to broadcast the concert, or maybe the area television station could have covered this event with a story on the 6:00 p.m. news.

In the real world, this isn’t going to happen.  There is no music editor at the newspaper office, and nobody from the radio station is going to cover the event.  Television coverage is even less likely.  But wait, did anyone even bother to tell them about the event?

Do these same media outlets cover sporting events?  Yes.  Do these outlets create interest in these events?  Yes.  So, how do they know where to go and when?  How do they build interest among the public?

Here’s the real world again!  These media outlets have a sports editor/department. Schedules of events are sent to these folks well in advance of the season.  These outlets plan to cover local, district, and state games.  They do interviews with coaches and players before and during the season.  Coaches contact them with results and recaps of games. And, often, there are pictures.

Maybe your school has an Activities Director.  Chances are that person is not going to do publicity for your groups.  He/she is probably overwhelmed with these duties, and other assigned duties.  The band’s appearance at the local Living Windows Christmas Celebration isn’t too high on his/her list.

If your school has an Athletic Director, he/she probably does not see publicity for the music program as a priority.  He/she is probably juggling schedules, busses, officials, eligibility issues, and may also be coaching a sport him/herself.  The choir’s Candlelight Concert doesn’t fit into his/her realm of importance.  [Unless there’s a schedule conflict!]

So, who does this?  Here’s the real world again---the music director.  Many years ago, Joe Pappas wrote the following in an article entitled ‘Communication Skills’ for the Missouri Bandmasters Association’s “Band Director’s Guide to Building Better Bands.”  Joe wrote:  “Probably the best way to communicate is through your local press.  Newspapers, radio, TV, school media are all excellent ways.  As they say “You might as well blow your own horn, no one else will!”  How true!  Every time the band or a student does something, inform the press.  This can be done with student or parent assistance.  Keep the band in front of the public; this will help you in many ways.”

It is actually rather simple to contact the local newspaper, radio station, and/or television station with a listing of events.  Send them a schedule at the beginning of the year.  You should already be doing this for your students. 

As you know, communication is changing almost daily.  Use the latest forms of social media to get out schedules, announce concerts, and to highlight accomplishments.

Prior to the event, send a news release with pertinent information of ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘when,’ and ‘where.’  If it’s a concert, list some of the pieces to be played, especially any that might entice someone who reads/hears the news release to attend.  People want to know groups are playing Sousa marches, singing outstanding sacred and secular music, and performing works of master composers.  If a soloist or small ensemble is to be featured, include some information about those performers.  Highlight appearances by guest conductors or soloists.  If you’re doing some ‘cutting edge’ material that includes garbage cans, kazoos, flashlights, extra recorded sounds, or something else out of the ordinary, let people know.  Be sure to include your contact information [phone number/e-mail] in case more information or clarification is needed.

Let local folks know about your local events by using church bulletins, chamber of commerce event listings, and community calendar postings.  A few printed flyers strategically placed around town are still an effective way to announce an event.  If your school has a newspaper, broadcast news outlet, or some other form of communication with students, use it.  Does your school have a daily/weekly bulletin?  If so, use it.  Mass e-mails to parents and other supporters are another easy and effective way to communicate.

Be sure you let everyone at school know about your concert or event.  Be sure to tell all administrators by dropping them a note or sending an e-mail about your concert.  Put the announcement in the school’s daily/weekly bulletin.  Send personal invitations to members of Board of Education.

A news release after a performance at an evaluative or competitive festival is certainly appropriate to report the results.  In fact, it’s news!  List overall results, but don’t forget caption awards, outstanding soloists, or outstanding sections.  Sometimes you might even want to quote an adjudicator’s positive comments about your group.

If you are reporting ratings from the district or state evaluative festivals, simply list all of the results.  Consider including the areas in which students are judged:  tone quality, intonation, rhythmic phrasing, etc.   Including the descriptors of each rating [I = Superior---“a clearly superior performance, one worthy of be recognized as among the very best,” II = Excellent---“a performance of distinctive quality, reflecting secure fundamental techniques and strong musical effect,” etc.] will be helpful to those seeing or hearing the news.

Newspapers love photos.  Nowadays it’s easy to take them.  A picture of those students who received recognition as outstanding soloists/musicians, received I ratings are easy to take.  If they’re instrumentalists, take their picture holding, or better yet, playing their instruments. 

Don’t you love those staged signings of athletic letters of intent or scholarship awards to play Division II junior college basketball someplace in the Southwest?  Have you ever considered highlighting your music students accepting a scholarship to major in music, perform with a university orchestra, sing in the show choir, or march in the college band?

If you do submit pictures of students, be sure you are following any school district guidelines for the release of student pictures.  And, be sure you follow your school’s policy about submitting information to the media.  Be sure your immediate administrator gets a copy of everything you send to the media.  And, save a copy of everything you send to the media.

Radio stations often like to interview directors about upcoming events.  What better way to explain what goes on at an evaluative music festival, build excitement/anticipation for a concert, and explain the goals and objectives for an upcoming trip.   Radio stations also like follow-up interviews after big events---sort of like the End Zone shows on Friday nights in the fall.

Establish a relationship with your local media outlets.  Contact them to inquire as the form in which they want to receive information.  Ask about their stylistic needs for printed materials, lead time for publication or broadcast stories, contact information [e-mail, FAX, telephone numbers], and see if there is a specific contact person.  [My local newspaper’s city editor has been very supportive over the years with stories about my bands.  The sports editor, not so much.  So, I’ve learned to make sure things go to that city editor.]

All of this puts a positive spin on your program, your students, you as director, and the school as a whole.  Who doesn’t need that?  Keeping your program in the public’s eye is important when administrators/school boards sometimes have to consider reductions of programs and funding.  Out of sight often does mean out of mind.  So, stay in sight throughout the year.

If admission is free, let them know.  People love free events.  Recognize administrators and school board members who attend your concerts.  They appreciate and deserve recognition.  Recognize those students at your concerts who have made the all-whatever group, received outstanding ratings at festivals, scholarships, or performed at the local nursing home.  None of these things takes a great deal of time, but certainly pays dividends in the long run.

Once you’ve established the above guidelines, creating news releases isn’t difficult.  In fact, once you’ve created a basic format, you can use the same basic release over and over.  Releases about concerts will contain much the same information, and just a few key strokes can alter the release for your next event.  Reports of festival results can also follow the same format each time.  And be sure you use ‘spell check’---communications from educators should have no misspellings!

Don’t forget to Music In Our Schools Month!  NAfME’s celebration of the importance of music education in our schools is a perfect vehicle to highlight your activities, and to educate the public about the importance of music education.  If you check the MIOSM section of the NAfMe website, you’ll find lots of material to aid your efforts.

Finally, if highlighting the accomplishments of your students and music program is to be done, it is most likely up to you to do it.  Whether it’s the newspaper, school bulletin, Facebook, mass e-mail, or a radio spot, every little bit helps.  A little organization can make this task relatively easy.  Your program will benefit in many, many ways from this visibility!

Contact Your Local Palen Music Center Representative


Can we assist you with anything?  Please contact your local Palen Music Center school road representative for all of your music education needs.


Springfield Bob Hopkins, Wayne Blades, Jason Moore, Mike Steffen, AAron Bryan (417) 882-7000
Columbia Paul Bowen (573) 256-5555
Liberty Ken Crisp, Harlan Moore, and Victoria Clymore (816) 792-8301
Joplin AAron Bryan (417) 781-3100
Broken Arrow Jeff Lawless and Mark VanVranken (918) 286-1555


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