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Creative Ideas to Help Music Student Retention [You Make a Difference]

retention tips for keeping students in your music program

1. Just like recruitment, retention happens every day! This month, work to make sure every single musician knows that they are valued and appreciated. Consider doing the following:

  • Create a few new awards for end-of-year awards banquets. (Awards are a great way to let our students know they are valued!)

  • Bring coaches and club sponsors in as special guests to “conduct” a mini rehearsal. The best coaches to invite are the ones who work with your students — you could even invite them to conduct a piece on a concert. This is a great way to build a strong sense of loyalty to your students who are involved in multiple activities.

  • Bust out some posterboard and draw a gigantic thermometer with the number of students in your program (except for students who are graduating). Ask each student to commit to your program for next year. As they do, fill that thermometer up! You can even offer some kind of a class reward for ensembles who fill their thermometer completely.

2. Did you know that up to 60% of students quit after their first year playing in an ensemble? Engaging the parents can make all the difference so it’s important that we bring them into the loop to help students complete a successful first year so that they continue for many more to come. Encourage them to take the 15-minute New Music Parent Course made available by NFHS (National Federation of High School Associations).

Also, consider having your beginning students teach their instrument to one of their parents so that they can perform in a Parent Band in the final concert of the year. We all know that when you teach, you also learn, so use this to your advantage. End the year on a high note with students and parents participating in this fun activity by playing 2-3 tunes from the method book. You might also provide a “Sign up for Intermediate Band” form for parents to sign at the concert to ensure that the students continue into the next year’s program.

3. Write short sticky notes of encouragement and place on instrument cases or instrument lockers. Sometimes I would write quick notes ahead of time and place them on students’ music as I walked around my classroom. This nice note of encouragement may seem small, but it can have a lasting impact on students.

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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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