“Cluster Concert: Connecting Choirs Across the County”

2024 Student Recruitment, Engagement, and Retention Award Recipient

Ravenwood High School Choir

Brentwood, TN


My aim was to enhance retention and spread the joy of choral singing from elementary to high school choir by orchestrating a collective showcase involving well over 200 students in our high school, feeder middle school, and feeder elementary school choirs. Each choir presented individual and joint pieces, even including an audience participation segment. To foster community engagement, we organized concessions and a student-leader-led information table, encouraging family involvement. The outcome: our high school choir has surged from 59 to over 130 students in just 2 years, underlining the success of this initiative.


The main objective was to increase retention and enrollment in elementary, middle, and high school choirs by showcasing the growth and community students can find in choir. When I started at Ravenwood High School in Fall 2021, there were only 59 students on the choir roster. Now, in just the past 2 school years, we have more than doubled in size and are at over 130 high schoolers in choir and hoping to continue to grow at that rate or better.

Additionally, when I arrived at Ravenwood, the middle schools had recently cut 6th grade choir (due to COVID-driven drops in enrollment) and were considering cutting the entire program. It was, then, even more critical for us to showcase a successful choir trajectory from elementary to middle to high school. I am so pleased to say that it is starting to work: this school year, they have brought 6th grade choir back into the curriculum at our main middle school feeder! Many of my current 9th graders cite this combined concert as a reason that inspired them to continue choir.

I had two additional objectives with this effort: the first was increasing audience size. When I arrived at Ravenwood, the concerts were very sparsely attended; however, now, we have so many concert attendees that we have to pursue alternative venues for the concerts as the auditorium cannot seat them all.

The second objective was to get families involved and feel inspired by the potential for growth for their students throughout the years, both as singers and as young people. We sold concessions and had a student-run info table so that people were encouraged to mingle after the concert and get to know one another. I feel strongly that this contributed to the continued growth of the programs in our district.Everything listed above is ongoing. The high school program leads the initiative of connection through music with our feeder programs. We hope to collaborate with our elementary general music programs soon.


  1. Meetings/collaboration – setting up a schedule so we can communicate and visit each other throughout the year.
  2. Establishing joint opportunities through performance and rehearsal for our high school students to support our younger students.
  3. Set a schedule to share resources as available.
  4. The high school website and facebook page serve as a promotion tool for all programs.

Target Audience

We saw this as an opportunity to reach 3 main populations within our community: students at the elementary, middle, and high school level; families of these students; and community members in our local area. We, the teachers putting on the concert, saw this initiative as a win-win situation. The younger-aged students and parents got to be impressed with how good the older students sounded as well as have a chance to chat with them a bit. The older students and parents got a chance to reflect and be proud about how far they have grown as well as motivate the next generation. We had many leaders from our community attend as well – from administration at the participating schools, to district personnel, to local leaders who encouraged their sphere of influence to attend the concert and spoke very highly of the experience after the concert.


  • Summer 2021 – Invited the 2 middle school teachers to participate in the concert
  • December 2021 – Visited the 2 middle schools with high school students students to advertise high school choir, get to know them, sing with them, answer questions
  • February 2022 – 1st Annual Cluster Concert, featuring Ravenwood High School + 2 feeder middle schools
  • Summer 2022 – Invited the 2 middle school teachers to the concert + 1 elementary school choir
  • December 2022 – Visited the cluster schools with high school students students to advertise high school choir, get to know them, sing with them, answer questions
  • February 2023 – 2nd Annual Cluster Concert, featuring Ravenwood High School + 2 feeder middle schools + 1 feeder elementary school. Standing room only attendance!

This year, we are making similar plans; however, we are planning to rent out an alternate venue, a nearby church that seats 2,500, to accommodate the significant audience growth we’ve seen over the past 2 years. This past year’s concert was standing room only and we had maxed out our school’s auditorium. Our audience size is expected to grow further this year from two main sources: firstly, the growth of our programs and secondly, the increase in community interest in this event. The change in venue will help us accommodate anyone in the community who is interested in enjoying the concert.

Overview of Planning and Execution

In addition to the planning efforts of the choir directors, I utilized several additional teams to execute this initiative:

  1. Student Leaders: I have a Choir Student Leadership Team which I meet with biweekly to provide leadership training to help identify opportunities to engage more directly with the choir students and the school at large. These students created an informational tri-fold and table which they set up at the concert. They then manned the table and advertised high school choir to the younger students and their families.
  2. Parent Leaders: I’ve developed a group of reliable parent volunteers who assist with various efforts throughout the choir’s academic year. For this event, I had our parent leaders collaborate with the student leaders to organize a bake sale. We sold concessions at this well-attended concert and, in doing so, were able to raise several thousand dollars. This effort was tremendously successful and tremendously necessary because our entire budget is fundraised. We receive no funding from the school or the district, and all of our concerts and events are free admission to encourage public access to the arts. Any funds we utilize to take students to festival, travel across the state, country, and internationally, and any other events throughout the year come 100% from donations and fundraising efforts. These parents delivered a very successful fundraiser that assisted our program in offering opportunities to all our students.
  3. The middle and elementary school teachers prepared their students very well for the concert and advertised to their own communities. I handled all the logistics for them such as accompanist, lighting/sound, etc. because I was hosting.

Tools and Resources

  • Canva – program & posters
  • Office Depot – printing posters & programs
  • Instagram & other social media platforms – used student-run accounts to promote the event

Marketing and Promotion

To maximize our potential audience, I market our choir events to a number of different people and groups. I create promotional materials for each and every concert, including posters (which we hang both around the school and in community buildings), a promotional social media graphic, program, and more (see supporting materials for some examples). I share these materials and extend invitations to the concert to anyone I can find.

I sent personalized email invites to:

  • Choir Families (I sent them a copy-and-pasteable promotional blurb as well as the marketing image. I ask them to share it on their social media as well as with their families)
  • Daily School Announcements
  • School Board
  • Administration
  • Social Media: student & district-run
  • PTO
  • All Staff
  • Alumni
  • District Newsletter

These efforts proved to be tremendously successful. We had to add hundreds of extra chairs to the back and sides of the auditorium (all of the chairs from the band and choir rooms, as well as some more from nearby classrooms), and even then there were still lots of people standing in the back. When I arrived at Ravenwood in the fall of 2021, I was told that no one attended choir concerts and that we needed to significantly grow the audience. I am proud that we were able to achieve that, and now most of our concerts have to be done at an outside venue. For example, this event this year will have to occur at Brentwood Baptist, a local church that seats 2,500 people.


  • Accompanist – $500
  • Audio/Visual Technician – $450
  • Programs – $300
  • Sheet Music – ~$2,000
  • Venue Rental (this upcoming year only) – ~$2,500


We experienced 3 major obstacles in the execution of this initiative:

  1. We couldn’t organize a separate night for a dress rehearsal, so we called all the students 90 minutes before the start of the concert and quickly put the combined pieces together. It turned out to be very fun for the students of all different ages to get to rehearse together.
  2. We needed some way to pay for the expenditures (as mentioned, all of our concerts and events have free admission and we are not given any money by the school), so we had the bake sale where we raised several thousand dollars, which had the additional benefit of allowing people time to mingle and chat at the end of the concert.
  3. Our audience was too large, so we got all the chairs from the band, choir, and art rooms and added them to the front, back, and sides of the auditorium (next year we are renting an external venue).

Success/Effectiveness Measurement

Yes! Our effort was very effective and is supported by a many measurable data points. At the concert itself, we saw immediate success on our objective of increasing audience size. We had to add hundreds of chairs to our 500+ seat auditorium to accommodate our audience, and we still had people standing in the back. This concert was so successful in increasing audience size that we will be renting a larger venue for future performances.

We also saw success in the objective of increasing program enrollment and retention. Since I started in this role, my retention rate is over 95%. Not only have the existing students stayed, but we’ve seen a big influx of new students who cited events like this as major reasons they wanted to join choir. As a result, choir enrollment has more than doubled since my arrival 2 years ago. We’ve also seen success across the district with the reinstatement of 6th grade choir at our primary feeder middle school. With all these students’ contributions to the program, we’ve been able to achieve a number of significant advances at the local, state, and national level including:

  • 35 students selected for Mid-State & Freshman Honor Choirs and 16 students selected for All-State Choir, leading the district and the 3rd most of any school in the state
  • 13 RHS students selected for the ACDA National Honor Choir, more than any other school in the state
  • 8 Superiors earned at District Choral Festival, and 8 more Superiors earned at State Choral Festival – every single RHS choir earned this top rank in both sight-reading and performance, with many perfect scores.
  • A Disney Trip with a performance at the Make-A-Wish Hotel and sweep of the Festival Disney Competition (Superior rating, Best in Class, AND Grand Champions)
  • European tour for Summer 2024

Community Impact

Our advocacy initiative has become an annual event in our community, uniting all ages through music. We saw large increases in our program’s enrollment. We saw such a strong local turnout that we will need to rent a larger venue for this year’s concert. We are looking forward to continuing to serve our community in this way and to bring everyone together through music. I truly believe music education has a wholly unique, profound, and positive lifelong impact on students not only as musicians, but also as individuals and community members, and I aim to share that positive impact with as many people as possible, which is why I am trying so hard to grow these programs. I am a music teacher because I love developing in all my students a lifelong love for making music, for themselves, and for their world. Because I have seen firsthand the positive impact that high-quality music instruction can have on students and their communities, I want to continue to facilitate and inspire that experience.

Advice for others?

I recommend starting smaller like we did and gradually adding schools each year. I would also recommend making sure you secure a venue large enough to accommodate all the students and families. Start planning early and communicating with your collaborating teachers early on as well. You got this!

Supporting Materials

Pre-Festival Concert Program

Pre-Festival Concert Program 2