Strategic Plan: 2016 – 2020

Preface to the Strategic Plan

Hawaii Youth Symphony Strategic Plan is written with the intent and objective of providing specific strategies for helping HYS continue to sustain and thrive in serving its mission; position itself as a leader within the community, and build towards the capacities required to succeed in the 21st Century and beyond. (View our previous Strategic Plan, 2008-2013.) Through strategic re-positioning, HYS can present itself in the marketplace as having the openness of a community music program, yet with the high-quality education akin to world-class conservatory. HYS will strive to continue supporting the rich, musical educations of all students, future audience members, arts advocates, community leaders, dutiful citizens, and those who do seek a professional musical career.  All of these roles can be informed by the values and traits developed through authentic, rigorous music education. This plan was crafted with the guidance of the Board of Directors’ (ad-hoc) Strategic Planning Committee, which includes the Music Director, Executive Director, and alumni; input from the administrative and music staff; and feedback from current parents, students, and community partners. The plan was approved by the Board of Directors at the Board Retreat on July 26, 2015. (As with any organization, planning and implementation are organic matters. Therefore, this plan is not intended to be a “written in stone” or “end all, be all” type of document. Rather, it should be revisited annually and amended/revised if needed.)  

Structure of the Plan

The Strategic Plan is divided into four Strategic Priorities: Prioritizing Our Educational Programs; Developing & Building Core (Internal) Constituencies; Increasing Our Community Connections & Footprint; and Establishing HYS as a Global Center. Each Strategic Priority in the Strategic Plan has narrative descriptions and implementation steps. A simplified, separate “Action Plan” will be created with more granular detail. Each year, the Action Plan will list the priorities from the strategic plan, and then under each priority will be a list of goals HYS will attempt to complete for that given year. At the end of the year, the ED will submit a recap of whether the goals were met, so that the Board may easily view the degree of the Action Plan’s completion.

Culture Surrounding HYS

As of 2015, Hawaii Youth Symphony is the only statewide instrumental music program. And of over 200 DOE schools in the State of Hawaii, less than 5% offer comprehensive music programs. HYS is one of the few organizations in which youth may receive general, string, and band instruction. Middle and high school programs typically offer band or string programs, but not both. Some string pedagogies, like Suzuki, are components of programs at individual schools. Fortunately, Hawaii students have access to a supportive, and nurturing community of music educators. Students may access alternative performance opportunities via music teacher organizations, like the Oahu Band Directors Association’s marching band festivals and solo/ensemble competitions, the Hawaii Association of String Teachers of America’s Parade of Orchestra festival and solo/ensemble competitions, competitions sponsored by the members of the Music Teachers National Association and the Hawaii Music Educators Association. These opportunities are spaced throughout the year. HYS strongly recommends students seek private instruction; many students study privately with members from the professional Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Hawaiian Band, and others in the community. HYS has a larger, positive reputation in the music community and a smaller, neutral/positive reputation in the greater community. Our top, competitive ensembles (Youth Symphony I, Youth Symphony II, and Concert Orchestra) are more widely known than our Academy String or Music in the Clubhouse programs. Our Listen & Learn educational concerts are acclaimed/endorsed by the DOE.  

Culture Within HYS

Hawaii Youth Symphony is known for its excellent musical and administrative staff. The average length of service is over seven years, with some music staff serving for over 30 years, and the majority of the administrative staff serving for over 10.  In service & support of our music staff, the HYS admin staff focuses on making sure its core duties (such as enrollment/registration, financial aid application, seasonal auditions, volunteer management and recruitment, and concert production) run smoothly and efficiently. A volunteer Board of Directors, culled from community leaders, arts education supporters, and current/former parents, meets once per month. Many parent volunteers donate 100-150 hours of their time each season to help HYS meet its goals; some of these volunteers have returned to HYS year after year following their child’s high school graduation, to ensure HYS operations run smoothly and cost-effectively.  Students who enter HYS in the Academy String Program frequently continue through to the Symphony Program. Several students who enter HYS in the Clubhouse programs, Summer Strings, and PMI programs continue into the Symphony Program as well. Student progress and retention are HYS’s ultimate goals.  

Priority 1: Prioritizing our Educational Programs

The 2008-2013 Strategic Plan focused on expanding HYS core offerings so that a range of entry points could be developed. It was HYS’s first Strategic Plan and gave the organization a unified direction. Whereas HYS previously did not have beginning band or general music classes, the Music in the Clubhouse program was created to fill that gap. And, whereas there was previously not a clear progression between the Symphony Program orchestras, the 2008-2013 Strategic Plan directed that the orchestras (including repertoire) must flow logically from one to the next. In the 2015/16–2019/20 Strategic Plan, HYS will continue to maximize the unique resources available to it through our relationships with Hawaii’s music community so that our curriculum may continue to evolve and meet the needs of Hawaii’s youth.

Priority 1 Strategies:

1. Enhance the Symphony Program with greater repertoire and unique learning opportunities Of utmost importance to HYS is the emphasis of large orchestra/symphonic repertoire that focuses on blending equal opportunities for students of all instrument families, development of tone and stylistic quality, and exposure to a wide variety of compositional styles, repertoire, time periods, and genres. HYS provides learning opportunities that are unavailable to other schools or programs, such as collaborations and masterclasses with world-class guest artists (preferably teaching artists) and composers; performances in leading venues; and other types of exposure opportunities (e.g. television, radio, etc.). HYS must continue to forge ahead and make these kinds of experiences available to as many of our students as possible.

2. Develop HYS programs so that more students from a wider geographic background may participate. HYS has a commitment and duty to serve students across the state. On Oahu, opportunities exist to introduce students from West, Central, and North Oahu to string instruments, string orchestra, and general music. HYS’s current offerings (as of 2015) attract students mainly from the Downtown Honolulu, Makiki, Manoa, and East Honolulu districts. Outside of Oahu, HYS should continue to seek student participants from Kauai, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Hawaii Islands—diversity is important to HYS. In order to broaden the base of students served, and increase the number of students served over all, HYS must always seek to reach students of all backgrounds.

3. Create chamber music opportunities for students without access to them in their schools, or without the opportunity to play chamber music with students from other schools. Very few students have the opportunity to engage in inter-school chamber music, which perfectly complements orchestral music education. There is nothing quite like a small group setting (e.g. with one student per instrument part), coupled with the dynamic of the master teaching artist. In addition, these chamber ensembles will have opportunities to participate in service projects and other community initiatives that will offer points of collaboration with organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii, the Hawaii State Art Museum, and others. Participants will also engage in powerful opportunities to affect others through music.

4. Create instrument-specific ensembles throughout the academic year Since wind and brass players typically begin learning their instruments at an older age than string players, they have fewer educational opportunities. Creating instrument-specific ensembles gives them more chances to study their instruments in group settings, and prepares them for entrée to the core HYS Symphony Program ensembles. Homogenous instrumental ensembles are a core part of the Pacific Music Institute’s curriculum, and their popularity is a known attraction. A year-round program may be an incentive to participate in HYS.

5. Increase emphasis on general music, with the addition/option of fundamental music literacy skills (e.g. music theory, aural, or Solfege[1]) classes for students at multiple levels. Increased emphasis on general music will improve the overall education and skill sets of our students, which will not only give them the tools they need to succeed in HYS and their school programs—but set them up for future success as well. It will also allow HYS the opportunity to develop its own style of musicianship curricula, which will help to grow the HYS brand and reputation.


Priority 2: Developing & Building Core (Internal) Constituencies

Central to the success of HYS are our core (internal) constituencies—namely the music faculty. Many of our faculty are HYS alumni, and therefore personally understand our organization’s culture and standards. However, due to the “brain drain” phenomenon, many skilled musicians, educators, and artistic administrators leave Hawaii, or seek alternative employment (outside of music and/or education). The pool is thereafter threatened, and it then becomes more difficult for HYS to attract/retain the expertise it needs to thrive.

Priority 2 Strategies:

1. Opportunities to help shape curriculum

In order to keep our faculty engaged, it is vitally important that we ask them to help shape our future in the context of curriculum, not just as “hired help” to implement our year round programs. We need to encourage them in focused discussions that can lead to future planning. 2. Board & Staff recruitment and succession planning As previously mentioned, “human capital” is key to the successfulness of HYS. The reputation of our organization is built around high-quality teachers, staff, and board members, and their commitment to HYS students. Recruiting similarly resourceful and committed teachers and board members is an ongoing and sensitive process. By engaging our current staff and board in the recruitment and succession planning process, they will be able to play a crucial role in shaping HYS’s future.  

Priority 3: Increasing Our Community Connections and Footprint

Hawaii Youth Symphony has been able to thrive because of community support, both in terms of outside funding and external partnerships. This confluence helps us to fulfill commitments made and also presses us to grow and expand. Our partners bring important validation to our work—and we strive to do the same for them. These partnerships may also increase or inform our work in important ways, by providing us new context or perspectives.

Priority 3 Strategies: 

1. Partnerships HYS has developed several long-lasting partnerships over its 50-year history; notably with University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Music Department; the City & County of Honolulu; the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts; the Boys & Girls Club Spalding Clubhouse; the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra; and the Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus. These partners have graciously allowed us the use of their resources and facilities; in return, HYS has provided them with high quality programming that creates PR vehicles for both institutions and serves the needs of our shared constituencies—Hawaii’s children and families. Looking to the future, HYS will continue to seek partnerships with like-minded organizations whose missions and ours are mutually intelligible. We will also seek to deepen our relationships with our current partners. As an example, we would like to develop a relationship with another of the Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii’s clubhouses, in an effort to bring more of our Music in the Clubhouse-type programming to an underserved neighborhood.

2. Funding Over the past decade, HYS has worked to diversify its funding sources, so that no singular category is relied upon too heavily—and so that all sectors of the community may be adequately engaged. With public money always at a precipice, HYS has sought corporate, foundation, and private support. To continue its financial health, HYS must continue to seek diverse funding sources and equally diverse methods of introduction.
3. Community Engagement A key component of HYS’s concert programming involves engaging the community through accessible musical performances. (The majority of HYS’s concerts are free and open to the public.) Since Hawaii already has very limited, accessible opportunities for the public to see live music, let alone quality educational programs, HYS will be able to position itself as a valuable community resource whether it is presenting a symphony concert, a visiting artist master class, or any number of other opportunities that engage multiple facets of our musical community.
4. Parent Involvement Our students’ parents are among HYS’s best assets and allies. They invest in their children’s education by enrolling them in music programs like HYS. When their children express interest in HYS, it is they whom have to commit to coming to our rehearsals and performances. Parents are a crucial aspect of their children’s music education. We must strive to engage them every step of the way: whether it be through committees, open houses, or focus groups. Engaging them in these ways will help us to build our resources and constituencies for volunteer development, board development, and philanthropy.

Priority 4: Establishing HYS as a Global Center

With 50 years in the industry, HYS has amassed a wealth of knowledge and best practices. By opening a dialogue with other, related artistic and/or geographical organizations, HYS would be able to both disseminate its practices and learn from its colleagues. HYS should originate these disseminations so that is positioned at the epicenter of this new network.

Priority 4 Strategies:

 1. Presenting World-Class Artists and Educators HYS has a responsibility to its students: to provide them with a continual stream of the highest-caliber artists, teachers, conductors, and composers. Doing so helps HYS to retain its position and reputation amongst Hawaii’s finest educational institutions. (These sorts of opportunities are highly prevalent in the contiguous US but rarely so in Hawaii, and on past occasion, high caliber HYS students have moved to major cities to participate in youth orchestra programs that can offer as much.) For the students who are passionate about music, but know they won’t become professional, performing with world-class artists becomes a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For the students who plan to major in music, these opportunities are important training. HYS should present at least one world-class Mainland- or Internationally-acclaimed artist per season.

2. Disseminating Best Practices HYS should outwardly share its knowledge and experience, so that likeminded organizations may learn from us. HYS’s executive director already participates in online forums for youth orchestra administrators (League of American Orchestras), but could be more involved in the national and international youth orchestra community.
3. Engaging Alumni HYS is amassing a wealth of highly-successful, passionate, highly-skilled, respected alumni, both in music and beyond. These individuals fondly look back on their time at HYS, as well as the value and importance that music plays in their lives. Whether they live in Hawaii or abroad (or have children or not), many would be interested in being “reactivated” and reconnected to HYS.

[1] Solfege is a centuries-old sight-singing methodology (e.g. do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-si) used by major music conservatories and successful music programs to increase fluency in music reading, pitch recognition, and other aural skills.