Top 5 Orchestra Recruitment Tips
Successful Ways to Build Your Orchestra Program
By Maria Stefanova Mar
Orchestra recruitment is an important part of every orchestra director’s position. We all want more students to share the joys of making music in our programs. Sharing recruitment ideas among orchestra teachers is a great way to build the tools for growing a thriving orchestra program. Here are my ideas for success.
Don’t limit your recruitment efforts to just one recruiting session a year. If your program is new or it needs to grow, it will take more effort to build it. Letting students know that they can join once will not be enough. You will need to find a variety of ways to send the message across. Over time you will see which techniques work best for the community of your school. Here are some suggestions when recruiting during the school year:
- Have concerts throughout the school year for the school community
- Invite other classes to visit orchestra and hear your students play. Schedule these invitations strategically right before students choose their elective for the following year.
- Create fun activities and hangouts during lunch where the existing students in the program can bring a friend and show them the instruments.
- Have a doughnut or cookie day. Bring treats during lunch. Ask your students to come and enjoy it while bringing a friend who is not in orchestra.
- Start a “recruiting wall of fame board”. If a student recruits a friend to join orchestra, then their name goes on the wall of fame.
Schedule a great recruiting session!
Most schools have one recruiting session per year when they go to the feeder schools and promote their program. When preparing for the recruiting session consider:
- Having your students talk to the younger students. It is always good to have your older students promote the program. Make sure you have your students practice their talk so that they sound engaging and exciting.
- Sell the viola. The success of a music program depends on having balanced instrumentation in each class. When I introduce the instruments to prospective 5th graders, I always start with the viola and end with the violin. I make sure to tell the kids that the viola is almost the same as the violin. However, most people don’t know how cool it really is. As a result most of my students want to be in the “cool crowd” and choose the viola. You can do the same with any instrument you would like to see more of in your classes.
- Get the instruments in the hands of the young students. In many of my recruiting sessions, I have asked four older students of mine to go around at the end of the recruiting session and show the instruments to the students. I pick older instruments for that purpose. The younger kids can gently pluck the strings or handle the instruments. This is very exciting to them. If the format of your recruiting session allows it, you can also set up “orchestra petting zoo” in the back of the room. Have all 4 instruments on a table. Allow younger students to come and check them out. Pick an outgoing student from your own program to help the kids with the instruments and train them to additionally talk about the program while doing that.
- Use electric instruments. Have you had a recruiting session where you feel that the orchestra instruments are quiet and don’t make as big of an impression? This is very common when all the programs have a recruiting session together. The solution? Get an electric instrument!
- Recruiting has to be fun! Use key words such as fun, trips and making friends while talking to prospective students. Practice delivering your recruiting information with warm and enthusiastic voice. The biggest mistake during a recruiting session is to say all the right things with a lack of enthusiasm. Young students pick up on the energy of a teacher. Be very mindful of that! I have seen teachers who drive away the students unintentionally for that reason. Don’t be one of them! I have shared my observations about What Not To Do When Recruiting for Orchestra or Band as well as more ideas about using keywords and building on kids’ enthusiasm while recruiting.
Don’t underestimate planning!
Practice makes perfect! When I prepare for recruiting sessions, I schedule every single thing that my students will do. The times I haven’t done it, I have seen that my numbers have gone down. Think about the recruiting session as your most important concert of the year. Your program is dependent on it. I have spent a lot of time thinking about recruiting and I have written about How to Prepare For a Recruiting Session where I share exact scripts and ways to approach kids. I will keep updating this post this year as I am getting ready for another “round” of recruiting trips to my local elementary schools.
The best recruiting sessions come from a team activity!
Don’t make the mistake of scheduling your recruiting sessions all by yourself. Engage your students as much as you can. They know the community at their elementary schools better. They are closer to the age of the students you are recruiting and will know how to get these students excited.
The very best advice I have received about recruiting has come directly from my students. I always brainstorm with them the best ways to make recruiting fun and engaging to the upcoming students. By doing that, you may quickly see a change in the dynamics of your orchestra program. You will find out that your students will start doing the recruiting for you.
Observe others who are successful!
This is probably the most important tip for new music educators. Sometimes different demographics and different dynamics at a school affect recruiting. What works well in one school may not be as effective in another. While experimenting with different recruiting strategies, make sure you also observe the work of others who are teaching in a similar situation and having success. See if you can capture the essence of their success and duplicate it.
Visit Maria’s blog, and check out her Pinterest page, Twitter account, as well as Google+ and Facebook.
About the Author:
NAfME Member Maria Stefanova Mar is the author of www.musicteachingandparenting.com where she shares ideas with string educators. Maria works as a pedagogy coordinator at the University of New Mexico. She also teaches orchestra full time in the Albuquerque public schools. She started a middle school program at Taylor Middle School, Albuquerque ten years ago. At the time there were only 12 students in the orchestra classes. Now it has grown to a full and successful program. The advanced students in the program just won NM state orchestra competition in the middle school category. Maria is a frequent clinician. She schedules regular presentations with the University of New Mexico students to share teaching ideas. She has been recognized from the ASTA/New Mexico Chapter with the Young Emerging Teacher Award in 2008. Now Maria serves as the ASTA president.
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