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What exactly is Tri-M and Why You Should Start a Chapter

Amy Thompson
OMEA State Tri-M Chair
Tri-M is a nationally recognized music honor society. It’s an honor society for kids who are involved in and love music. It is a service organization rooted in music. The way each chapter fulfills this is as unique as our music programs.

Why Should I Start a Chapter?

We are not cookie-cutter music programs, so your reasons for starting a chapter should be as unique as your music department. Are there things you’ve always wanted your music program to do but not enough time? Are there things not currently getting done or things that student leaders could take off your plate? Do you want your students to take on more leadership roles? 
I had thrown the Tri-M pamphlet that frequently landed in my mailbox away more times than I could count. I didn’t have time to start a Tri-M chapter, nor were my colleagues interested. In the spring of 2018 one of my juniors came to me in search of a senior project. This became our start. That March we laid a plan to begin a chapter the following year. We recruited some juniors that would become our first executive board and got to work. We paid to start our chapter and inducted them at the end of that school year so they would be official. That fall the executive board began recruiting members. They made announcements in every music class and diligently planned their first meeting with prospective members. 
I thought for certain this would be a great way to make my life easier. I was sure this would mean less work for me. Ha! It was not less work at all, mentoring these young leaders. While more tasks were accomplished, this new chapter did not make my life easier. It did, however, make it better. Granted, sometimes frustrating and overwhelming, especially when having to “hold hands” and “spoon feed” someone who’s supposed to be a student leader, but this is all part of the growth process.
Five years are now under our belts, but we certainly haven’t mastered what our chapter looks like. We are constantly reorganizing our structure to better serve our needs and the time we have available to make things work. One of the many things I have learned is that no matter what, there are always kids willing to step up to the plate when asked.
What are the things we all do that make us official Tri-M Chapters? There are guidelines set forth by NAfME, but how each chapter executes each should inspire you and reassure you that these requirements can be accomplished in your own way. Here are some ideas from my school and others around the state to get you started! Steal them, make them your own, and have fun watching your students take charge!

Start or Renew Your Chapter!

It costs $100 per year to maintain an active chapter. Activation and renewal follow the academic year, not the time you begin your chapter, so renewal is yearly in the fall.

Find Student Leaders!

We try to balance our leadership amongst our ensembles so everyone is represented. They can be appointed or voted in. Here’s what some of our Ohio Chapters are doing:
  • Traditional Officers (President, VP, Secretary, Treasurer)
  • Committee Heads - Accountability (service and fee tracking), Events (Ushering and helping at HS and MS concerts), Special Events (MIOSM, Talent Show, Picnics, Service Projects)
  • Project Coordinators for each event (no officers)
  • Ensemble Officers are Tri-M Leaders
  • Chairs - ie. Secretary, Historian, Treasurer, MIOSM Chair, Youth Engagement Chair, Concert and Events Chair
  • President (runs meetings/coordinates events); Performance Chair; Service Chair; Library Chair
We have surely all learned to be thieves of great teaching techniques and lesson ideas in our classrooms, so why not steal, borrow and tweak the great ideas that other chapters have found useful! Here is a list to get your creative juices flowing and inspire you to try something new. There are a few things on these lists that I will personally be stealing for my chapter!

Tried and True Chapter Requirements for Membership Ideas from around Ohio:

  • In order to receive an invitation to join our chapter, I request GPS status from the guidance office. Students must have at least a 2.5 GPA
  • Membership in grades 9-12 music class and in good standing academically
  • At least one year in a performance group, taking part in an honor group of some type, academics
  • 3.0 or better in music courses; 15 hours of service work in music (school or community); meeting attendance
  • Performing at the Induction/Recital; working in the music library; serve performances at local nursing home/hospice facility
  • Be in an outside the school ensemble OR private lessons, and participate by taking a solo to solo and ensemble
  • All members must participate in solo and ensemble
  • Must be in a top ensemble, GPA, high quality student
  • 3.0 GPA; A in music class; written application with evidence of leadership, service and character and 2 adult references
  • Required number of service events rather than hours, one performance not required by your ensemble (solo or group), viewing other concerts

Successful Service Projects:

Make Life Easier by Sharing the Load
  • Organizing and structuring the music library
  • The students help parents with concessions
  • Work concerts and events - Stage and rooms are reset so quickly after each concert!
  • Host Music Department Cleaning Days (organizing and cleaning the music rooms, music libraries and more)
Connect Within Your School
  • Usher at Concerts
  • Students write thank you notes to the entire HS staff before Thanksgiving accompanied with a large Hershey's Symphony bar.
Connect with Other Schools in Your District
  • Help at Elementary Concerts (to increase retention)
  • Help with local middle school rehearsals and concerts
  • Start an after school tutoring program where high school students sign up to practice with middle school students and help them with their concert music.
  • Our Tri-M chapter writes notes of encouragement and creates goodie bags for each elementary music student before their band or choir concert.
  • Tri-M provides goodie bags for our elementary students during state testing.
  • A Music Discovery Day is run by our members at a local pre-school.
Connect with the Community
  • Host a fundraisers at local restaurants - let students set it up and run it
  • Hold a Dance (to increase community outreach)
  • Perform at nursing homes
  • Take a solo and ensemble recital to a community care center
  • Volunteer at a food bank and put together meals for delivery
  • In exchange for free use of the local historic opera house for the induction ceremony, students help with events set up at the opera house.
Hold a Performance
  • We invited grades 3-4-5 to the high school for a MIOSM concert where all the HS ensembles performed. The Tri-M members emceed the event, told jokes, and recruited the audience to be a part of the music.
  • Our Tri-M chapter Runs a Solo and Ensemble Adjudicated Event for our high school and the surrounding middle schools
  • After the induction ceremony, we present a concert highlighting chamber music ensembles from solo and ensemble. The parents and students hear each other and develop more appreciation for both the instrumental and vocal programs in our school.
Do Something Fun to Build Community
  • Tri-M hosts a music department back-to-school picnic at a local park. They provide games and food.
  • We attend a professional performance like a Broadway musical or symphony orchestra. We dress up and go out to eat before the show!
  • We partner with Tuesday Musical Association to take students to professional concerts at E.J. Thomas Hall - Tuesday Musical provides free busing and free tickets for our students. Each year, we raise money for Akron Children's Hospital's music therapy wing. We do this by hosting some event to bring our music students together in a fun, social way. Examples include bowling, skating, and laser tag.
Amy Thompson, OMEA State Tri-M Chair Email me for more ideas, information and with questions!
Special Thanks for Your Input and GREAT Ideas: Eastwood HS, Brian Myers Jackson HS, Michele Monigold - OMEA Tri-M Chapter of the Year Maplewood HS, Angeline Laney Oak Hills HS, Alex Moore and Amy Thompson Padua Franciscan HS, Mark Wozniak River View HS, Dawn Anglin Wadsworth HS, Kalyn Davis and Dana Hire Thanks to our anonymous contributors as well!