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How You Start Class Matters When It Comes to Music Student Retention [Plus a 30 Day Challenge]

retention tips for keeping students in your music program

1. Start each rehearsal by allowing your students to share any good news they have with the rest of the ensemble. You can either dedicate one minute of time to this practice or you can have it occur at the same time as breathing exercises, stretching, or any other procedural activity that it would not disrupt. Take volunteers and either set a participant or time limit so you do not delay music making. This activity simultaneously builds band / orchestra family bonds and allows you to learn a little bit about what is going on in the lives of your students. When your musicians feel connected to each other and that you care about what is going on in other aspects of their lives, they are more likely to stay involved in the ensemble.

2. Start each class session with band (concert or jazz) or string (orchestral) music playing when students enter the rehearsal space. Make your playlist varied so all the instruments your students play are featured. Once class is ready to go, tell them a little about what they were listening to, and play another 30 seconds. Then, let them know with a big smile how much you enjoyed that piece. In a recent interview at the NAMM show in Anaheim, John Fogerty, the original lead songwriter and singer of the band Credence Clearwater Revival said, “My music teacher’s absolute joy about music inspired me.” You can do the same for your students.

3. Even though I know you should absolutely take time this summer to relax and forget about work, do try to reach out to your students once every few weeks or so to keep your ensemble on their mind

Here are a few quick tips for reaching them:

  • Practice Tips — Send your students a few practice tips and maybe even a 1-minute video of you practicing to encourage them and to model how to practice efficiently.

  • Favorite Websites — Email your students a quick list of websites or groups to follow on social media in order to continue to maintain their interest (Hello, Twoset Violins!).

  • 30-Day Practice Challenge — Send the Practice Challenge below to your students and offer some kind of silly prize if they check off every single box.

30 Day Summer Practice Challenge

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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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