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Successful Student Recruitment for Beginning Music Programs

The key to any successful music program is to have students. In turn, a successful recruitment campaign is vital to building an active beginning music program. A recruitment informational meeting is essential. For a music director to have a successful music producing school, he or she must use effective recruitment strategies and be a great salesperson as well as a musician. Attained goals are met as a result of quality recruitment preparation.

The recruitment preparation process affects the overall program and requires several hours of planning. Hosting a recruitment informational meeting for students and parents is recommended to improve the introduction into the program. Directors will need to understand how to implement effective recruitment strategies, send out information, and stay passionate about why someone should join his or her music program.

Recruitment Preparation

Recruitment preparation is one of the most crucial aspects of having a great music program. It involves carefully crafting a plan and working out all of the logistics.

If you are a director of an elementary school music program, set up times as early as possible for an instrument demonstration assembly. Communicate with classroom teachers to set the most desirable date. Above all, try to set this up in the first week or two of school when the energy is high, and the student’s other commitments have yet to take place.

Instrument Demonstration

An elementary instrument demonstration should be done in a large room and by grades. Try not to involve more than 150 students at a time, per assembly. Since large rooms are multipurpose, be sure to schedule and write up the necessary building usage forms. Also, talk to those who may be affected by this assembly. For example, if you plan to use the cafeteria, be sure to speak with the cafeteria workers.

If you are middle or high school director with a beginning class, you may have an instrument demonstration assembly in a more intimate setting. In a smaller room, you can pass the instruments around the room. Enlighten your future students. As a result, this could benefit your beginning program. Regardless, whether you choose to do a demonstration in a small classroom or a grandiose hall, make sure you cater to the student interests.

The instrument demonstration assembly should showcase all instrument offerings. The quality of this presentation could affect the director’s entire school year. If the director doesn’t provide highlight, each instrument students will likely choose to play the more popular instruments (ie, flute, saxophone, trumpet, and percussion.) As a result, this could lead to challenges in balancing the ensemble.

Approaches to Instrument Demonstration

There are two primary means for demonstrating instruments in front of an audience of students and parents.

1) You, as the director, may choose to demonstrate each instrument. As a result, you will be able to keep the presentation moving and adhere to a schedule.

2) Secondly, you can choose to have a high school or various levels of student musicians demonstrate for you. Students and parents may be more inclined to appreciate this method since they can see the different skill capabilities of the students. 

3) If you choose to use students to perform at your assembly, be sure to give them plenty of prior notice and any music you wish them to play. Doing this action gives your assistants plenty of time to prepare and the best chance to provide a confident performance.

Music Selection for the Demonstration

Often students choose their instrument based on the music selected at the demonstration assembly. Carefully decide what sort of music interests your students have. For example, this could be a short selection from a pop song, jazz, or something taken from a cartoon. If there is an instrument of high need, be sure to play something popular that appeals to more students.

Recruitment Letter

Before your instrument demonstration, prepare an administrator approved letter that goes home to students. This letter should be inviting, professional, and grammatically correct. Inform parents that they need to be prepared to learn about the necessary info needed for their child’s success as part of the overall music program. In this letter include:

  • Description of the music program
    • Frequency of classes and rehearsal
    • The student make up of the class
    • Goals
    • Performances
    • Opportunities
  • Clearly detail about the instrument rental process
  • Discuss the scheduled recruitment informational meeting
  • If you choose, include a portion of the form to be returned

Schedule Parent Informational Meeting

Shortly after the student assembly, host a parent informational meeting of interested students and parents wanting to join your music program. Mark this date every calendar as soon as possible. Provide fliers with the students or send emails out to parents reminding them of the meeting.

Aptitude Testing

Aptitude testing is a common approach for directors preparing students instrument choice selection. Some directors choose not to do this to save instructional time; however, I feel that it is essential. There are scenarios in which the student’s physical attributes are suited better to some instruments that others. Ideally, you want all students to be successful. As the music professional, you have the knowledge and ability to recognize and encourage students to learn an instrument suited towards their strengths.

Create an Exciting Atmosphere

Before the assembly, create an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation. Decorate your room with colorful student recruitment posters and pipe in exciting music that feature instruments that they can learn. Be sure to place all the instruments on display. If you have some that are not aesthetically pleasing to look at see if the local music store will allow you to display some of theirs.

The Big Event

The big assembly day has arrived. Be sure to make it exciting and put on a show! Taking about 30-40 minutes should be adequate for your program presentation. Include the following in the assembly:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Concisely discuss your music program
    • 1) Identify that their child is eligible to join the music program
    • No tuition charge/ Music method books provided
    • No music experience is necessary
    • Classes are held during the school day
    • Rent Instruments at a low cost
  • Perform: Instrument demonstration

Consider demonstrating and displaying instruments in score order. Enable the audience an opportunity to hear similar instruments played sequentially. If you have students performing for you, have them sit in the front row in order of demonstrations.

Electrify Your Audience

Make the assembly interactive. Have a volunteer come up and see if they can make a sound blowing over soda bottle. Then have them see if they can create a sound on a flute’s headjoint. You can pass around a reed and identify that is what is needed to create a sound on the sax or clarinet. See if someone can create a buzz on a brass mouthpiece. By this time, students will be begging to volunteer.

  • At this point, pass out the informational pack. Be sure to go over the key points and to give the packet to their parents.
  • Tell students that there is a parent’s informational meeting and materials are available then.
  • Answer a limited number of student questions. Theses may include:
    • How much do the items cost?
    • What if I want to quit?
    • Can you play in the band and orchestra?
    • What if I can’t read music?
  • Next, under supervision, pass around instruments

Children love to touch and see instruments up close. I recommend passing around instruments. Remove items such as mouthpieces and reeds to avoid having them damaged or lost.

Visit Classrooms for Follow-up

Keep the energy up. Arrange with classroom teachers, between the assembly and recruitment informational meeting, to visit classrooms. Even more, bring additional informational packets, letters, and a couple of instruments. Remind students that you are trying to create a strong music producing school, the parent informational meeting is coming up and you are there to answer any questions they may have. Before leaving thank the class and tell them that you are looking forward to seeing them on your next encounter.

Be Seen

Take extra effort to be seen, looking professional, and interacting with the student body population before the recruitment informational meeting. Send out reminders, emails, and even try an “all call” to get the word out. Approach the recruitment parent meeting as a “BIG” deal. With a high energy profile and recruitment preparation, music directors will be in a position to make a positive impact on the student recruitment process.

Additional Recruitment Strategies

There are a variety of recruitment strategies that can be used to encourage greater participation in your music program. Recruitment preparation will significantly improve your success. For that reason, the following recruitment strategies will benefit your efforts.

  • Provide 5th-12th-grade variations of class schedules of how students can take music+athletics+required academic courses.

  • Invite an upper-level music program to perform fun music for the student recruitment event. Have a couple well spoke student leaders speak to the group to make a connection.

  • Inform potential music students that they will be able to perform with the 12th students at the end of the year pyramid concert.

  • Invite all students that are apart of the music program who attended every performance to a couple of social events at the end of the year.

  • Bring student-athletes from the high school to talk to students about being in music and athletics.

Sell Your Program to Your Audience

  • Even more, educate students and parents with an attractive brochure that includes photos and benefits of being in music programs.

  • Have current band students write letters to students, or classes of students, interested in joining the music program.

  • Have current and past music students talk with the potential music students that were from the same feeder school. The presenter receives great pride to the presenter, and children are receptive to this.

  • Display a wall of fame with pictures of students who receive 100s on music tests.

  • Maintain an advocacy website with materials and information. The website shows the value of participation and that the program is in a music producing school.

  • Students who are from financially depressed families will receive every opportunity to perform and be successful in music is possible.

  • Build relationships. Make a regular effort show you care and be seen in music producing school activities.

  • Have each potential music student invite a friend that would be a good fit for joining a music program. The music program meets all of the guests and speaks about their music program.

  • Use social media, like Instagram. Document several pictures a week what a music producing school looks like.

  • Place student recruitment posters and fliers in the hallway about how great the music program is.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, student recruitment can be a lot of fun and not seem like a daunting task. Effective recruitment strategies help your program become a quality music producing school. If students see that you are passionate about what you do, then they will want to join you! Your recruitment informational meeting will be an annual milestone that with proper recruitment preparation will pay off in huge dividends. Take these recruitment strategies and apply them to one of your situations. Finally, please let me know of your successes and the recruitment preparation actions you took.


Beginning Band Recruiting. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://advocacy.musicforall.org/submission/beginning-band-recruiting/

[Brochure]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.forsyth.k12.ga.us/cms/lib3/GA01000373/Centricity/Domain/4569/Band Brochure.pdf

Fraedrich, E. (2003). The art of elementary band directing. Galesville, MD: Meredith Music Publ.

Higdon, W. (2018, August 29). Successful Recruitment Is a Process, Not an Event. Retrieved from https://www.smartmusic.com/blog/successful-recruitment-process-not-event/

Music, B. P. (n.d.). Videos. Retrieved from https://www.bepartofthemusic.org/bpotb/index.html

(n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.amromusic.com/recruiting-beginners

(n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.elmgroveband.com/Beginning.html

(n.d.). Retrieved from http://mmea2015.basicband.info/recruitment/

Top 10 Tips for Music Recruitment. (2018, April 25). Retrieved from https://nafme.org/top-ten-tips-for-music-recruitment/ 

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