With a vast school music portfolio that spans six states, Amro Music in Memphis, Tennessee, is experiencing a school rental season that Vice President Nick Averwater described as “consistently inconsistent.”
Because it services school districts in Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama and Missouri, the B&O dealer has seen some of its schools returning to in-person classes while others continue remote learning due the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These variances have definitely played a role in how our business has been affected,” Averwater said. “On one hand, the coronavirus pandemic has taken our little segment of the industry and flipped it around, and that’s been challenging. But on the other hand, I’m super invigorated by our team and the work that they’ve done because I know when all of this is over, we’re going to be a stronger, better and faster company, and we are serving our customers in new ways.”
One of those new ways is through Amro’s new webinar and podcast series, After Hours: Conversations for Music Educators. Now up to 18 episodes (as of mid-October) and available on Google Play, Apple Podcasts and Spotify, After Hours started shortly after the pandemic hit in April following a conversation with an experienced band director who raised fundamental questions on how to navigate the pandemic.
“We were talking here at Amro and saying, ‘Man, if such an experienced band director is having these questions, what does that mean for our new band directors and young band directors, and how can we help them through this process?’” Averwater explained.
After Hours started as a Zoom webinar featuring a panel of educators tossing ideas back and forth and covering such topics as how to recruit without a classroom, how to sign kids up remotely and how to safely hold a marching band camp. The first webinar saw 130 directors attend, and the second grew to 430.
“It started ballooning on us, and it was really cool because we were just trying to address the questions that the directors had at the time,” Averwater said, adding that eventually they decided to turn the webinars into podcast episodes as an additional distribution method.
As of early October, Amro plans to relaunch After Hours in the coming weeks solely as a podcast this time.
“It’s a service to music educators, and we’re going to continue to ask questions and have people on [who] have answers,” Averwater said, adding that another topic was communicating with school administrators to make sure that music is part of the core curriculum. “We discussed how to ensure that music stays a vibrant part of schools and doesn’t [go on] the chopping block.”
Averwater said advocating for music in schools might be one of the most important initiatives heading into 2021.
“We have to be very in-tune to the challenges ahead, and I think, most notably, we should expect that there will be some contracting in state budgets as this year’s sales tax revenues decreased as a result of COVID, and that becomes next year’s budget challenges,” he said. “I think there are going to be tough conversations on the horizon, and we as an industry better be prepared to advocate passionately for music in our communities because administrators are going to have to make tough decisions. We better be prepared, have our story, have our facts and strengthen the relationships with the key decisions makers in our communities, so that if the question of music comes up, the response is, ‘Hey, our kids need music, and it needs to be a part of our community.’” MI