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Being Flexible is the Key to Student Retention [Keep Things Positive]

1. There are times throughout the school year where the responsibilities that come with participating in band and orchestra may overlap with a fun activity that the rest of the student body gets to participate in. Perhaps the student body at football on Friday night wears fun costumes that coordinate with themed game days while the marching band is in their uniforms. Perhaps the dances on the school calendar tend to fall close to mandatory music events that keep everyone from participating in both. Where possible, see if you can make some slight changes to allow students to be valued members of their school bands and orchestras and feel a part of the entire student body. For example, if there is a themed football game, maybe you can allow band members to wear head gear or accessories that match the theme but could be removed for the half time performance.

If yearly music events make it difficult for music students to participate in something that the rest of their classmates can, perhaps it is time to swap that commitment out for a different one. Wherever you observe an instance of a student having to make a choice between being a model member of their school music ensemble or having a meaningful memory that other non-music students get to experience, brainstorm ways that students can do both. If a music event keeps students from fully participating in a special non-music event, you are relying on them choosing music every time. Minimize the number of times they must choose, and it should be less difficult to hold onto your ensemble members and easier to have the music students feel like a part of the greater school community!

2. Involve current students in recruitment activities. Ask the elementary / middle school music educators whose students are potential participants in your program how your current students might also be able to assist in their upcoming concerts. Provide leadership acknowledgement to those who choose to do so. Students who are actively engaged in your program will REMAIN in your program, and having them involved in recruitment activities provides buy-in on their part and positive modeling for future students.

3. We often focus on students and parents when it comes to retention, but some of our biggest allies can be our colleagues, the classroom teachers, and support staff. During the year it is inevitable that there are activities and events that disrupt their schedules. It can be for pull-out lessons, field trips, or those days when your rehearsal runs a minute or two late. Taking a few moments to write a message to them thanking them for their work in the classrooms and their support of the music program will mean a great deal to many. Don’t forget to include the counselors, administrators, and custodial staff.

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These retention tips are written by various authors and are compiled from "More to Start, Fewer to Quit" a recruitment, retention, and success newsletter brought to you by The Music Achievement Council and Instrumental Music Center.


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