Are You Retaining?

Many hours are spent recruiting students for the school band program, but once you have them, how do you keep them?

Many teachers have tips for successful retention, but there are several that appear on nearly every list. A few of the key suggestions offered by NAfME members include:

  • Making your top group the most advanced, desirable group possible. The kids will consider it an honor to “get in” and will work hard toward that goal.
  • Always have a carrot on the end of the stick. That carrot can be a trip to an amusement park, or a festival or competition in the spring for kids who remained enrolled all year.
  • Provide a sense of “esprit de corps” and a nurturing environment for students. Susan Braden of Flanders, NJ suggests that “students like to have an ‘identity’ within the school.”
  • Keep the program balanced…”more than 4 or 5 marching competitions is too much,” says NAfME band mentor Ron Meers.
  • Allow students to have a say in the music chosen each year. They will have more interest in playing something they’ve chosen and they’re able to stay better focused through the year.
  • Have a tradition of excellence. Success breeds success and students like being part of a legacy.
  • Keep improving yourself and growing in the field of music education and how you relate to your students.


One that is sometimes forgotten, but one of the most critical according to Mitchell Kaplan, NAfME member from Providence, RI, is parental involvement. He believes that you must find a way to help parents take more ownership and become involved if you want your program to thrive.

If you have other suggestions or ideas to supplement the above, visit the new NAfME forums to share them!

–Becky Spray, originally posted April 23, 2008, © National Association for Music Education (