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Retention Efforts are Important Year Round for Music Students [Connection, connection, connection]

retention tips for keeping students in your music program

1. Develop a list of all your music students, and include student name, parent / guardian name(s), instrument, email, and phone number. Send an email or make a quick phone call to their parent(s) / guardian(s) to (re)introduce yourself and let them know how pleased you are to have their child in your class. Try to point out one “bright spot” for every student: hard worker, energetic, intelligent, pays attention, works well with other students, has really caught on to playing, or is showing great improvement. Communicating early and often with the families of your students keeps them involved and interested, resulting in their child continuing to participate in your program.

2. Participating in a project that gives back to the greater community is a great way to build the culture within the ensemble and this type of collective action contributes significantly to retention. Work with your student leaders to organize a “We Love Our Teachers and Staff” luncheon on Valentine’s Day. Check with a local Italian restaurant to discover if special pricing might be available for this particular event. Make it extra special by using tablecloths along with an appropriate centerpiece or candle. Your students can provide the entertainment while simultaneously exhibiting their musical gifts. This will go a long way to “make nice” with everyone at the school as well as give the students the opportunity to showcase their talents.

21. More Than Just Keeping Count

I keep a “Feel Good File.” This contains every note, email, card, etc. that I’ve ever received. People close to me took the time to let me know that they appreciated the work I was doing. Could I do the same to help grow my program of 30 students?

Two days before our concert, I brought our printed programs home and hand-wrote a note to every student in the band. “Annie: great work in class. I appreciate you putting in the extra time!” “Robert: I noticed yesterday that you helped a younger bassoonist. This is great character.” “Maria: great job on juggling music and athletics, and doing both well!”

I handed these notes out right before our performance. After the concert, the kids were abuzz; they clearly enjoyed the recognition.

Between the first and second concerts, we gained a few kids. One of them asked me directly, “Do I get a note even though I’m new?” Of course they did. More concerts, more notes handed out, and a tradition was created. One sophomore nearly quit but stayed after a heartfelt note on their program. It's amazing how a few scribbles on paper can turn the tide.

Selfishly, though, the notes were getting more cumbersome to write. I decided that due to the program increasing to 140 students, I would step away from writing program notes. The day before the concert, we ended rehearsal and packed up. Two freshmen came up to me. “We heard you personalize programs! We can’t wait to see what you wrote for us!” I paused.“Yep! Looking forward to it!” It was a long night, but I reminded myself to take care of those who show up. Build your program from the inside out.

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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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