Every band program depends upon recruiting new members to continue the pride andtradition established by the current band members. Recruiting can be one of the hardestjobs a band director faces, and for some, the most unpleasant, while others love to meetpotential students and â€œsellâ€ their program to the eager young students. In the end, after allthe recruiting is over, you actually get to teach them what you love: music!
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2008 edition of the Iowa Bandmaster Magazine and was written by Patti Bekkerus, a well established and respected music educator currently teaching in the Dennison, Iowa school district.
Some directors walk into an existing program that numbers many students and their job isto maintain and continue the tradition. Others walk into programs with barely any membersand not much interest in joining a program that is not thriving. For those programs, thedirector must be the best salesman ever! The important thing is to remember you areâ€œsellingâ€ them a chance to participate in and learn something you absolutely love: MUSIC!
Before starting the actual recruiting process, I highly recommend â€œtestingâ€ the class on pitchmatching and rhythm. There are several tests or surveys out there. IÊ¼ve used both theSelmer Music Survey and the UMI Recruiting Program for Band. I am also lucky enough tohave the elementary general music teacher administer the test for me at my current school.She is a great advocate for our program and teaches them instrument families and namesas well as giving the music test as well.
I am a firm believer in using the current band program and students to recruit beginners! IÊ¼vealso taken videos to show the kids and to publicize the program but IÊ¼ve found the bandstudents themselves and a concert are much more effective. We invite the current recruitingclass to a concert. We hold the concert in our high school Fine Arts Center (concertenvironment) and feature the High School Concert Band and the 7th Grade Concert Band.Each band performs two to three numbers for the students with the concert lasting a total of30-40 minutes. I try to have the 7th grade band play something that is familiar to thestudents or a novelty piece. Our high school band director spends some time during theconcert introducing a high school player from each instrument family. He strategically asksvery well known students (even to the younger kids) ranging from our all-state musicians tothe starting quarterback on our football team. Those kids all know those older students whoare active in activities and they are true role models for them! The people he introducesplay a short tune for the students to show off their instrument. ItÊ¼s amazing what hearing afamiliar tune or an instrument just played well does for a beginner who is trying to decidewhich instrument he/she would like to play. He also has a way of really â€œsellingâ€ aninstrument that we feel will be a real need to our program in the future years. (i.e. low brass,clarinets, etc.)
Following the concert, we take a week to test the students on the instruments. Although it isa very short time and one may wonder what, if anything, you might accomplish in that fiveminutes, it is often enough to convince a student who thinks they â€œcanÊ¼tâ€ play something (orthat it would be too hard) that they CAN get a sound on an instrument! It also serves thepurpose of helping them make up their mind as to WHICH instrument to play. IÊ¼ve hadseveral students change their mind about what instrument they should play just becausesomething was â€œeasy to playâ€ or â€œsounded coolâ€.
This year, we tried an â€œassembly lineâ€ procedure to test. There are only two band directorsin our district and I tested all woodwind instruments and percussion and the high school banddirector tested the brass players. We liked that approach as we were in our comfort zoneand felt we had a good grasp on all three sections as we tested. We also have the luxury ofhelping each other when we got â€œstuckâ€ and couldnÊ¼t get a student to produce a sound. AftertheyÊ¼ve â€œplayedâ€ all the instruments, we ask them what their first and second choices wouldbe to play in band. From this list, we form our â€œidealâ€ band instrumentation keeping in mindwe usually start at least 50-60% of the class.
Approximately a week before our instrument display night, I take a few middle schoolstudents to visit the various classes and answer their questions about band and often justgeneral questions about middle school! Again, the most effective way to promote yourprogram is to showcase those who already love it!
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