“January Recruitment Folder”
Rouse High School Band
Rouse High School
Due to the nature of the pandemic in 2020, we could not host our typical in-person recruitment events throughout the Fall and Spring for our incoming 9th graders. With us facing this challenge, we took a page out of the college admissions marketing world and sent every incoming Rouse band member a folder of educational materials for both parents and students about the benefits of continuing to study music in high school. This has now continued to be a major recruiting tool we use due to its effectiveness in its inaugural year.
Transitioning to high school can be scary enough without the added stress of a pandemic so the Rouse Band Staff set out to educate students and parents alike on the benefits of continuing their scholastic musical career into high school. Every year it seems like the scholastic environment is getting more and more competitive and students and parents feel pressure to drop electives such as choir, band, and orchestra in an effort to raise their grades. It was our goal to show both the social-emotional and academic benefits that have been found to be correlated with students who continue to participate in their scholastic music programs through the help of resources found on websites such as Music for All, NAfME, TMEA, and our own anecdotal conversations with admissions counselors at Tier 1 research universities, executives at companies such as Amazon Web Services and current and former band families.
The parents and students involved in our middle school programs are our focus in an effort to educate them on what high school band can help unlock in your future by teaching you soft skills and a strong work ethic that will be needed in whatever field they experience after high school.
We began interviewing and gathering materials in October so that we had time to edit the videos for our website. Our recruitment folders are sent out every January about two weeks before our campus “Big Picture Night” which begins the enrollment season for their freshmen year. Now that we have most of the materials created, we are able to update our materials at the beginning of December in preparation for this event.
Overview of Planning and Execution
The idea was spearheaded by the band faculty: Ryan Johnstone, Caitlin Wolf, Drew Saenz, Jen Barton, and myself (Matt Wood). We each took ownership of different areas based on our strengths. Our head band director, Ryan, was the ultimate decision on what was or was not included in these recruitment folders. We also heavily relied on the support of community members and band parents to give us anecdotal accounts of the benefits they see in being a part of your high school band program.
Marketing and Promotion
We individually mailed students their folders rather than handing them out during their band classes. We felt this had several benefits, the largest one being that their parents were more likely to be able to view this resource as well. Despite our increasingly digital world, there is still something special about receiving something in the mail!
We are blessed to have resources here in Leander that made this idea super affordable. Our district has a print shop that can make copies, print flyers, etc. for a fraction of the cost that an office supply store could. The district also allows us to mail any program recruitment items we would like at their cost. You may have these same resources in your own district and may not even know. I would encourage you to ask your administration!
The largest cost was the folders, which cost about $2.17 to make. Ultimately, the total cost it takes for us to send these items to our incoming students is less than $4.00 a student.
ALWAYS check with the campus registrar for the most up-to-date mailing addresses. We had several that were returned to us and took a bit of digging to figure out where they actually needed to go.
I would say so. Since beginning this initiative, we have had two of the largest classes of incoming freshmen in the history of the band program. Out of the ~200 yearly incoming freshmen the past two years (2021, 2022), over 130 are enrolled in the Rouse Band program. Our next highest class is under 40 students. We have seen major growth in students joining and then continuing in the program.
I think there is a greater appreciation and understanding of the benefits of being a part of group activities such as band, choir, orchestra, athletics, etc.
We have to advocate for how our programs affect the whole student both through our actions and initiatives such as these. When we do so, the community realizes that we care about our students beyond how well they march or play and there is a greater buy-in from all parties involved.
Advice for others?
When surveying families, the biggest impact on the decision to continue band into high school was the videos involving community members speaking about what band has done for them/their child. Parents/students likely have a strong bond established with these families. Use them to your advantage!