In a recent publication by the Music Achievement Council , A Practical Guide for Recruitment and Retention seeks to provide much needed advice and planning tips to young music educators in their first years of service in the public schools. In reading the twenty four page recruitment guide I was struck with the thought that even experienced band and orchestra directors can benefit from the information contained this book, especially those teachers that find themselves returning to beginning band instruction after several years at the upper levels.
The Guide is laid out in a simple, common sense fashion that begins with a planning process that should occur well before the program is to be introduced to the students. Planning and preparation is a key component to this manual, beginning with how to set up a strong, dedicated support
structure to assist the new band director and continuing on to many good methods for conducting personal communications with parents during the initial recruitment phase of the school year. The recruitment portion of the guide also contains several pages of useful sample documents for use in communicating with parents, evaluating students, and drumming up support and interest in the overall program. Especially helpful are the sample forms used to evaluate the students, measuring their abilities both as potential musicians and as students in the general education classroom. Sample questionaires for classroom teachers to fill out are a wonderful idea that can potentially help the band director make good, well founded decisions when approaching parents and eager students that wish to join the program.
The second part of the Guide focuses on retention of students once the band or orchestra program has started. Included in this section is a thought provoking list of dozens of reasons that students choose to drop out of the music education program. Many of these reasons the teacher has no control over, while others can be avoided if the teacher is dedicated and plans accordingly. For those students that still choose to drop out of the band a sample "drop form" is included to be filled out by the teacher. It offers a window into the big picture of what areas of the program may need improvement.
The final page of the Guide contains a CD that is the only really dissapointing part of the entire publication. The title on the CD is rather misleading, making one believe that the disc contains all of the files to go along with a publication by the Music Achievement Council titled The First Performance Demonstration Concert . Unfortunately the CD that accompanies the Recruitment and Retention Guide only contains the audio demonstration of the concert program, a brief, ten minute beginners concert to which the music and other materials can be purchased seperately.
Overall, A Practical Guide For Recruitment and Retention is a useful tool, especially for the new music educators. If possible however, it should be shared with these educators long before they first step foot in their own classroom. Once the school year has started it may be too late for the new teacher to fully utilize the information contained within. For more advanced teachers seeking to improve their recruitment techniques the Guide may also provide some benefit, if not to introduce new ideas at least to refresh our memories of the most useful ones.