This Spring Your Beginner Program Can Blossom With Five Recruitment Tips!
By Wendy Higdon
It’s spring, and while most people are anticipating warmer weather, if you’re a band or orchestra director, your thoughts might be more focused on growing your program, rather than on the growing flowers.
That’s right. Spring is the season for recruitment for many of us. What can you do to get more students involved? Read on!
1. Captivate students with kid-friendly activities.
Today’s student has a wide range of choices in activities. A message tailored specifically for your young audience is key. If you are able to present a demonstration concert to your prospective students, make sure that you choose music that is fun, familiar and no more than a few minutes in length. Videos, classroom visits and opportunities for your current kids to connect with the younger ones can also be very effective. Don’t forget to plan time for prospective students to get “hands on” with the instruments through “petting zoos” or instrument fittings as a important part of your recruitment.
2. Communicate with prospective parents more than once, and in a variety of formats.
Parents are busier than ever, and often overwhelmed with all they have to do. It is easy for information to slip through the cracks. Any message must be brief, but clear, while making sure to be powerful enough that it will cut through the noise. Take advantage of electronic communication– email, social media and websites. And have print material prepared for your prospective parents as well. A multi-pronged communication approach will help you to reach more people.
3. Never underestimate the power of “word of mouth.” There’s some absolute truth to the idea that recruitment is something that you do every day. If students have a positive and rewarding experience in your band or orchestra program, word gets out. If the experience isn’t very good. . . well, you get the idea. Cultivate positive relationships with parents, and let them know through your actions and words that you have their children’s best interests at heart. A group of parents who are in your corner can do more for your recruitment efforts than you can ever do on your own. Current students who actively encourage their younger siblings and friends to join are even better!
4. Develop your program’s public image.
Much like advertisers work to develop a public perception of the companies and products they represent, directors need to be aware of the public image of their music program. So give some thought to the message you are sending to prospective families. Is your program nurturing? All-inclusive? Do students enjoy their experience while performing at a high level? Are you, as director, responsive to student needs? Are you well-respected and knowledgeable? Are kids and parents proud to be associated with your group? If the perception people have about your program isn’t where you want it to be, take action to change things. Use every opportunity to spread the good news about your program to your community. Be patient. It won’t happen overnight.
In addition, you will be developing the “nuts and bolts” message specific to your enrollment efforts. As you do so, don’t forget about the image you are conveying here as well. When you send out materials, make sure they look professional, contain proper grammar and are free of typos. Events and meetings that you plan as part of your recruitment should be well organized, provide information that parents need and kept to a reasonable length of time.
5. Don’t forget to recruit the support of your administrators.
It is especially important to continually educate your administration, guidance counselors and classroom teachers as to the value of your program. These are the people who may be in a position to directly encourage or discourage involvement in music. Administrators and counselors determine whether the schedule makes it easy or difficult for students to participate. Keep these important colleagues informed of the good that is happening in your instrumental music program and the benefits of joining.
Although many of us think of spring as “recruitment season,” the fact is that recruitment is a year-round activity. By insuring that your program not only meets, but exceeds, the needs of your current students, families and community, you’ll find that you don’t have to convince students to join– they will be excited to do so! Good luck in your efforts. Every student should have the opportunity to learn an instrument through their school music program!
About the Author:
NAfME Member Wendy Higdon is the Director of Bands and Unified Arts Department Chair at Creekside Middle School in Carmel, IN. She began her career as Director of Bands at Lebanon Middle School (IN) in 1991 and came to Carmel Clay Schools in 1999 where she taught band at Carmel Middle School until the opening of Creekside in 2004. Under her leadership, the performing arts programs at Creekside have grown from 400 students in 2004 to nearly 900 students this year.
To read more about Wendy, visit the About Me section on On and Off the Podium.
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