Recruiting Ideas For Beginning Band

Tuba PlayerEvery band program depends upon recruiting new members to continue the pride and
tradition established by the current band members. Recruiting can be one of the hardest
jobs a band director faces, and for some, the most unpleasant, while others love to meet
potential students and “sell” their program to the eager young students. In the end, after all
the 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 is
to maintain and continue the tradition. Others walk into programs with barely any members
and not much interest in joining a program that is not thriving. For those programs, the
director must be the best salesman ever! The important thing is to remember you are
“selling” them a chance to participate in and learn something you absolutely love: MUSIC!


Before starting the actual recruiting process, I highly recommend “testing” the class on pitch
matching and rhythm. There are several tests or surveys out there. Iʼve used both the
Selmer Music Survey and the UMI Recruiting Program for Band. I am also lucky enough to
have 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 names
as well as giving the music test as well.

Recruiting

I am a firm believer in using the current band program and students to recruit beginners! Iʼve
also taken videos to show the kids and to publicize the program but Iʼve found the band
students themselves and a concert are much more effective. We invite the current recruiting
class to a concert. We hold the concert in our high school Fine Arts Center (concert
environment) 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 of
30-40 minutes. I try to have the 7th grade band play something that is familiar to the
students or a novelty piece. Our high school band director spends some time during the
concert introducing a high school player from each instrument family. He strategically asks
very well known students (even to the younger kids) ranging from our all-state musicians to
the starting quarterback on our football team. Those kids all know those older students who
are active in activities and they are true role models for them! The people he introduces
play a short tune for the students to show off their instrument. Itʼs amazing what hearing a
familiar tune or an instrument just played well does for a beginner who is trying to decide
which instrument he/she would like to play. He also has a way of really “selling” an
instrument 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 is
a very short time and one may wonder what, if anything, you might accomplish in that five
minutes, it is often enough to convince a student who thinks they “canʼt” play something (or
that it would be too hard) that they CAN get a sound on an instrument! It also serves the
purpose of helping them make up their mind as to WHICH instrument to play. Iʼve had
several students change their mind about what instrument they should play just because
something was “easy to play” or “sounded cool”.


This year, we tried an “assembly line” procedure to test. There are only two band directors
in our district and I tested all woodwind instruments and percussion and the high school band
director tested the brass players. We liked that approach as we were in our comfort zone
and felt we had a good grasp on all three sections as we tested. We also have the luxury of
helping each other when we got “stuck” and couldnʼt get a student to produce a sound. After
theyʼve “played” all the instruments, we ask them what their first and second choices would
be to play in band. From this list, we form our “ideal” band instrumentation keeping in mind
we usually start at least 50-60% of the class.


Approximately a week before our instrument display night, I take a few middle school
students to visit the various classes and answer their questions about band and often just
general questions about middle school! Again, the most effective way to promote your
program is to showcase those who already love it!

 

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