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The following is a strategic plan for the period of 2013 to 2018 for the Music Enrichment Program (the “Program”) that is under the auspices of Edmonton String Players Association (the “Association”), a non-profit society and federally registered charity.
The Program is a community based arts and educational string music program providing quality, graduated group instruction in violin, viola, cello and double bass and instruction and experience in various levels of string orchestra. Both instrumental and orchestral instruction are offered at an affordable cost to the widest possible number of participants in metro Edmonton.
The Program will be a catalyst for access and opportunity to achieve artistic excellence in the mastery of violin, viola, cello and bass within a group context. The Association’s resources will be used to: support string music students’ performance and success within a unified curriculum which will be reviewed on an ongoing basis in order to incorporate “best practices”; offer affordable access to developmental workshops, seminars and public performance tours, and offer music educator training and professional development for staff with ongoing support from experienced master teachers. The Program will promote student growth and achievement through providing arts performance opportunities for our communities’ youth.
The strategic plan honours the following core values of the Program:
We are committed to providing equal opportunity to all students to achieve artistic and personal success regardless of background, socio-economic status or previous musical experience.
We are committed to providing excellence in all aspects of our musical and artistic endeavours, fuelled by the passion of our dedicated conductors and instructors.
We are committed to honest, open communication and fairness in all our actions. In our dealings with students, parents, volunteers, staff and community stakeholders, we will always seek to maintain the highest ethical standards.
Since 1959, the Program was originally founded by the Edmonton Public School Board (the “Board”) to provide quality string music lessons and orchestral experience to students in junior and senior high school. Later the Program was expanded to include opportunities for students from grade 3 and upwards. This was done in both “in school” and “after school” hours programs in the four quadrants of the City of Edmonton. Challenged by budget cuts to tours and instrumental purchases, a group of parent volunteers banded together to for the Association in 1976 to provide supplemental financial support, human resources, support for teachers and students and to be a liaison with the Board.
For 54 years, thousands of children received not only musical education and arts performance opportunities, but timeless life lessons in dedication, diligence and hard work, resulting in the building of character through the pursuit of excellence in all aspects of the Program. We were not just training young musicians. We were building young men and women to be solid, responsible members of the community.
The Board withdrew its funding for the Program effective May 1, 2013 without consultation with, or advanced notification to the Association. In response, the Association broadened its mandate to continue the Program by providing all financial and administrative support necessary for the 2013/14 season and beyond. The Association has concentrated its limited resources since May 1 to mastering the mechanics of its newly assumed administrative and financial responsibilities, but has lacked the ability and capacity to develop a strategic plan.
The Program’s strategic focus is to maximize and ensure delivery of our string music arts and education program in a sustainable model.
The strategic priorities of the Program are: Artistic and Educational Programming; Organizational Sustainability; and, Community Awareness.
The Program’s group instruction classes should promote the graduated development of students within a unified string music curriculum that incorporates the best practices available from a variety of sources that have proven successful in other like settings/programs. Divergent methods and educational theories can ultimately confuse and inhibit the student from their best possible artistic achievement, with gaps in necessary fundamental skills being evident in the student’s performance.
The Program’s two delivery elements, class group instructions and string orchestra instruction must work in concert with each other. Conductors must listen to and implement the input from instructors on the age and skill appropriate musical developmental needs of students and must strive to choose repertoire that is suitable for the students in the orchestra they conduct. Further, the string orchestras must maintain the balance of performance excellence with the need to develop artistic excellence from within the students who are concurrently enrolled in the Program’s group instructional classes.
The coordination of the Program’s artistic and educational endeavours should be overseen by a very experienced and competent string music educator and performer who has had a history of working within group instructional situations. Oversight should not only include curriculum input, but the hiring, training, mentoring and oversight of conductors and instructors.
The artistic performances by students should reflect a willingness to embrace challenging and innovative string repertoire. This is not only to broaden the students’ technical capacities, but to allow for a varied musical experience and to be a means to fully channel the personal expressions of these budding musical artists.
The primary means to the Program’s sustainability is the passion for both musical and educational excellence by the conductors and instructors. Their ability as both artists and educators is the key to long-term sustainability. The Association’s resources must be directed to the recruitment, ideally, through a program artistic coordinator, and retention of the highest quality conductors and instructors. Professional development programming should be provided for all staff in coordination with the program artistic coordinator. Compensation rates for conductors and instructors must be competitive with those generally available through other academic and private teaching settings. The Association should always maintain professional, respectful relations with these conductors and instructors, listening to and implementing their program suggestions within the parameters of the strategic plan and available financial resources. The Association should recognize and promote the achievements of the conductors and instructors wherever possible.
The expansion of the number of students is solidly linked to the financial viability of the Association. Expansion must be actively pursued on an ongoing basis in order to have the Program be viable and sustainable. Retention of beginner students is a key to the achievement of this strategy. Class sizes should ideally be capped at 12 students at this level, possibly supplemented by part-time teaching assistants. Timely feedback to parents of student development should be periodically scheduled throughout the performance season. Supplemental workshops tailored for first year students should be offered that include socialization opportunities for these young learners. Promotion of the Program to support this goal will be considered further below, under Community Awareness.
The organization and delivery of the Program is, through necessity, linked to a large, active base of participating parent volunteers. It must be of paramount concern to the Association to make all reasonable efforts to recruit, recognize and retain these needed human resources.
Market and promote the Program and its events as models for the benefits and the “why” of string music education and performance.
Support community-wide activities that encourage wider appreciation of string music performance.
Market and expand the Program more widely to include all school jurisdictions in the City of Edmonton that currently do not have a string music presence, but also expand into areas outside the boundaries of the City of Edmonton. This desire for expansion should always be tempered by the availability of resources (financial, administrative and above all the availability of qualified instructors for the effective delivery of the Program).
Develop strategic alliances with local non-string music artistic and community organizations. Mutually promote compatible programs and share expertise and resources.