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Thomas J. West Music

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8 Roadblocks and 8 Winning Moves for Recruitment and Retention of High School Band Members

Posted on July 30, 2010 at 6:44 AM

If you are a high school band director in the U.S., you most likely have had to take an active role in recruiting and retaining students for your band. There are many obstacles and roadblocks that discourage students from joining or remaining in your program. It goes without saying that having a strong feeder program at the elementary and middle school level is critical, and that, as with everything else in life, success is all about building personal relationships with other stakeholders who benefit from the relationship.

Eight Roadblocks

Here are eight roadblocks that I have personally encountered that have prevented or removed students from my high school band program:

1. Band grade brings down their GPA

2. Band is scheduled at the same time as other singleton AP classes

3. Feeder programs are poor quality

4. Feeder programs do not communicate with the HS program regularly

5. I picked drum majors that other students don’t want to be under

6. I held students accountable to a written policy that they didn’t like

7. Parents didn’t like the decisions I made and pulled their kids (or in one case, defamed me publically)

8. The community I taught in did not value the arts and only wants a band to play in the stands at football games

Notice that most of these roadblocks are caused by misperception and ignorance. Part of recruiting and retention is educating the people who support your program on how they can support you. The other major part is creating an environment that makes students feel welcome, comfortable, and successful.

Eight Recruiting and Retention Moves That Work

Here are eight efforts I've made in recruiting and retention that have worked for me. This by far is not an exhaustive list!

1. Having high school students play for the middle and elementary programs

2. Having high school students sit in to play with lower ensembles

3. Having high school students teach lessons at the elementary level

4. Hosting an all-district concert with beginner band up through senior HS – everyone can see the scope and sequence in action

5. Music demonstration days to recruit new players into the elementary program

6. Elementary band plays at one football game in the stands with the HS

7. Community performances by band members at holidays

8. Hosting a band festival/exhibition

Getting high school students involved with the lower grades in multiple ways is a total win-win for many reasons: it develops the teaching and personal skills of the high school students, it creates personal connections to younger students who will one day be in their band, it gives young students role models to emulate, it gets young students excited about being in high school, and so on.

Creating an all-district concert is also a powerful win-win activity: it builds connections between ensembles (especially if you do a combined number), it allows all stakeholders to see how a student will grow in ability and skill throughout the entire band program, and it will draw a big audience.

Another important point in recruitment/retention is that students need to make a personal connection to the band director. Performing ensembles are very personality-driven. If students like the director, that goes a long way to keeping them involved.

Building personal connections between people (including the band staff at all grade levels) is critical to the recruitment and retention of high school band members. Make your band "the place to be" for kids who love to play music.

This article (c) 2010 Thomas J. West. All content on ThomasJWestMusic dot com is licensed under a Creative Contributions Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. Please contact the author before publishing on or off-line.

Categories: Music Education, Teacher Tips, Recommendations

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