Reply To: Band vs. JROTC

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Thank you for some feedback! I was hoping this one wouldn’t get buried. I really am looking for some thoughts.

Long story short:

Apples (jrotc) and oranges (music) are both good, but when choosing both prohibits access to turkey (other academics), I need help convincing a kid/family that they want the orange more than the apple, without calling the apple rotten, so they can have a balanced meal (well rounded schedule–though vegetarians/vegans might disagree with my analogy). What I’m looking for is the type of advocacy materials or ideas that support music performance group membership particularly in relation to other hs programs such as jrotc, preferable without degrading their program(s). Any advice would be appreciated.

I/we do try to offer students the best musical experiences possible and keep them informed of their options and opportunities. We rarely loose students that choose to continue in music performance in HS. We lose a lot of music performance rising 8th graders though (particularly in this area). That’s why I’m asking for advice. We put a great deal of effort into recruiting/retention but would like to do the best job we can. We have identified that this particular area of recruiting/retention is one of concern and we need to try to improve upon it.

Long story long:

I understand your point, and I too would like students to have the opportunity to explore many options. I do not believe any HS program we offer is counterproductive to students. Unfortunately there are only so many credits/classes available in our schedule and 96% of them must be passed for a kid to graduate on time. So, in a way, yes I would see a student dropping band after two years as somewhat wasteful, as it would not allow them to set their schedule flow up to maximize their preparation for their future. This puts students at what many parents, counselors, band directors, and administrators feel is a disadvantage to students for admission into certain/many colleges.

We do have an active and flourishing music technology pathway, and I do believe all student should (and in our case thankfully do) have the opportunity to pursue and study music on one level or another (whether for 1 year or 4) in performance, appreciate, and/or creation. Our school scheduling structure and demands will simply not lend itself to a beginning HS band, and students who try to join the band without previous instruction are at a minimum of 3 years behind their peers experience wise. I suppose my biggest frustration is that the student pool for a music performance class at the intermediate level is almost always (in our situation) only from current music students. These student who are in middle school performance classes have a developing learned skill, whereas other instructional programs often begin their initial or basic preparation at the HS level (such as jrotc). In other words, I only really have 30%ish of the MS population to draw from whereas other introductory programs have 100%. Therefore, being selfish, I want to cut their 100% and protect my 30%ish. Obviously our numbers impact how we are treated and though of by the community, system and school administration, how we are funded, and how we are able to perform. Whether we as band directors like it or not, our band and our performances at football games and other places are usually the face of the fine arts program and often of our schools. So, when I miss out on a very promising player because they want to try jrotc AND want to set themselves up to maximize their HS other academic opportunities, it’s disheartening at the very least as they would have likely been a valuable contributing member of our performance ensembles greater success, which would then give all of our students more and better opportunities (not just enhance my/the band’s reputation-though I do like having as much job security as I can too).