Recruiting was a topic that was never covered in my music education classes. It was almost like it was a bad thing to consider the concept. In reality we all realize that recruiting is an absolutely essential part of being a band director.
Growing your program is essential for a lot of reasons – instrumentation gets better if you have more players, funding tends to stay in the program with larger numbers and justification for larger budgets is so much easier when you are running a robust program.
Here are a few tactics – none of which are new or mine – to help you with this task. You may have heard of them already, but it’s always worth bringing them up again.
Your feeder system is critical
This is an obvious statement. It makes sense, of course, that the more students you can start the more opportunity you have to increase your numbers at higher levels.
How much do you do to work with your feeder schools to help them grow? Do you do demonstration days at the schools with your high school students? Are you able to create a mentor lesson program using high school students to tutor your younger students? How about using some of your solo and ensemble groups to play at school events at those schools? I love this approach because it gave me more opportunity to work with my small ensembles rather than try and get them together for just the festival, I tried to have them play all year long and have them perform at PTA and similar functions at the elementary schools. It was a plus for me and showed the younger students what was possible.
Blending your organizations
If your district does not have a district wide music festival where all groups perform, you’re missing out on a great way to show parents and students the goals to which they are working. Seeing the high school concert band play so magnificently will serve as a great object lesson to middle school players. “If we keep working, we’ll sound like that some day.”
If at all possible, have some of your middle school students march or at least assist with the high school marching band. Seeing the “behind the scenes” action can be contagious.
As hard as it is, you have to travel
This is probably the most controversial because it seems more about the trip than the music, but I can assure you, students at the lower level see the high school trip as an opportunity. When I was at Seaford middle school in New York, I had many parents of students say they were putting up with all the practicing and band booster fundraiser because they wanted their children to participate in the band trip. The trip does not have to be to Europe every year – but maybe once every four years so everyone can experience a performance abroad. Or maybe you march in a major parade in New York or California. Any way you look at it, that glamour will help you grow your program. The quality of the performances is up to you.
There are many more ways to grow your program. We’d like to hear from you on how you do that! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org