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Experience and Accomplishment Lead to Music Student Retention [Helpful Ideas]

retention tips for keeping students in your music program

1. For most students, retention equals experience. Work to find ways to give your students top-level experiences no matter their performance level. All students deserve an enriching, positive learning experience in their ensembles. Bring in clinicians, play in new spaces, have Zoom calls with composers, schedule an amateur / professional musician to play a concerto, and find ways to celebrate your students whether they play grade five or one.

2. Empowering your current students is one of the most powerful ways to keep them in your program. There are lots of big and small ways to get your students more involved in your rehearsals, and the impact of those opportunities will add a new, positive dimension to their experience in music.

  • Here are a few ideas:

  • Have students lead warm-ups or scale drills

  • Take turns having students conduct and ask them to share what they heard

  • Designate students to lead program projects

  • Create and rotate program, classroom, and concert jobs for students

  • Section leader

  • Music librarian

  • Concert assistant

  • Publicity coordinator

  • Program historian

  • Recruitment assistant

  • If appropriate, identify opportunities for older students to coach younger, less-experienced students and nurture peer mentor relationships

3. Finalize the dates for 2024-2025 recruitment with your school’s administration and your local music dealer. Ask your school to publish these dates on their school calendar and to share them in any communications that are sent to the parents, school district and community. Work to make the program a “school band” or a “school orchestra” program, and not “your" band or "your" orchestra. Try to arrange a performance by first- or second-year students during a student lunch period. Create some video testimonials by students who are participating that let others know how much fun playing is and why. It’s important to remember that students recruit students — as teachers we can only facilitate the process.

4. Vision Box

Begin by having your students write a reflection on the things that they've accomplished this year. The reflections don't have to be in full sentences they could be a simple bulleted list or marked list. On another card or sheet of paper, have them write stream-of-consciousness notes to themselves about their technical, social, or leadership goals for orchestra next year. Next, have them put this written reflection in the Vision Box. Create a ritual of storing those goals away over the summer in a safe place so that they can be ready to be read by the students when they return in the fall.

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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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