North Jefferson Middle School Band
North Jefferson Middle School
As I prepared to start the 2021-2022 school year (my 5th at NJMS), there was a severe need for an increase in enrollment for our band program. I created a strategic year-long timeline in which I focused on creating space for my students to gain ownership of what we call Our Band. We emphasized the band “framily” concept and promoted the benefits of music education to parents and 6-8th grade students. What we experienced was a dramatic increase in the quality of culture surrounding our band program that included the high school as well, promoting retention into 9th grade.
The objectives of my advocacy initiative included improving the culture of and promoting my middle school band program in my own school community and the 4 feeder elementary schools. I also worked with the band director at the high school to incorporate events in each of our schedules that highlighted what his program has to offer, which we hoped would increase retention rates.
Ultimately, I wanted to turn my enrollment trends upward following a dip due to covid. The main goal of the initiative was to increase the total student enrollment in band classes (6th-8th grade) for the 2022-2023 school year.
The largest target audience for my advocacy initiative was the 5th grade students who would be selecting elective courses for the 2022-2023 school year. The total number of students I had to recruit from was around 220-225 students from 4 different elementary schools. I was able to successfully recruit just over 100 of those students to join the band program. This is the largest class of 6th grade beginning band students ever, in the history of North Jefferson Middle School. On average, the number of students registered for beginning band in the 6th grade has been between 45-60 students over the last 10 years, approximately.
These students, as they enter 6th grade, are crucial to recruit because developmentally I can catch them at the appropriate time. They are in transition from primary age into pre-teen adolescence, where they begin to discover who they are and develop a self-worth. Music education is extremely important at this age because of how it provides a balance of structure, routine, and rigor at the same time it teaches responsibility, accountability, and individuality. All the while, offering an outlet for crucial social-emotional skills, self-expression, and gaining self-confidence. Not to mention… they make friends, are challenged in a safe environment, learning a new skill, having fun, and are able to still participate in other academic clubs, sports, and extra-curricular activities.
The timeline was an entire calendar year, which started in August 2021 and was completed by August 2022. Each month had specific activities and goals that were part of my recruitment/retention calendar.
Overview of Planning and Execution
I was the facilitator of the project at-large, but my administrators, counselors, my band students, current students’ parents, former middle school students, who are now part of the high school band, administrators, secretaries, music teachers, classroom teachers, and PE teachers at all 4 of my feeder schools were involved.
NJMS Administrators/Counselors – Approval of various field trips, performances, activities, events, social media postings, parent communications, and recruitment trips to the elementary schools. Also, they maneuvered the master schedule to allow for an additional band class offering (beginning 7th and 8th grade). They also shuffled students into preferred ability-level band classes. The time commitment from them was approximately 1-2 hours a week throughout the year, which allowed time for planning and execution.
Current Band Students – Participated in performances and events throughout the year that they enjoyed, and therefore told their family and friends about band. They also participated in a recruitment-rush event in which they competed for the highest number of points of contact, convincing their peers to join the band.
Current High School Band Students/Band Director – Hosted a “Friday Night Lights” event in which 7th and 8th grade students attended a high school football game and performed in the stands together. They also attended our middle school football games to play in the stands with us. Lastly, they volunteered with events like our Beginning Band Instrument Selection and Jump Start Camp. They shared about their high school band experience to all 6-8th grade band students, getting them excited about continuing band in 9th grade and beyond, which included touching stories of friendship, personal growth, and college scholarship opportunities.
Elementary Teachers and Administrators – Offered me multiple opportunities to interact and inform students during the school day about the middle school band program, and helped with extending important communications throughout the year.
Tools and Resources
Tools and resources used in this project included technology for communications, data collection, websites for sharing about instruments on recruiting trips to elementary schools. Also, I used an equipment trailer and buses for transportation, my class set of instruments for demonstrations, I partnered with a local Chick-Fila to help provide lunch, a local university music school through which we had their Symphony Band come perform in our community for my students. Candy was also donated by current members of the band to put together Christmas stockings for elementary classrooms. Also, I utilized audio and visual equipment in my classroom to promote events and carry out informal performances for my students throughout the year, as well as for 5th graders visiting our building during an orientation.
Marketing and Promotion
My strategy was to almost over-communicate the story of our band program. I did this largely through social media by posting frequent and varied types of content in different platforms. I also connected with all of our feeder elementary schools, our high school, marching band auxiliary groups, and our district’s social media accounts. This created a wider range of an audience and helped our program gain traction and reach more people through out the year.
There were not any additional expenditures incurred.
The biggest challenge I encountered was my own high expectations, and the disappointment that came when students changed their mind about participating or parents weren’t fully understanding what band has to offer their child. I used a great deal of patience, made over 100 individual parent phone calls and met with students one-on-one to help understand where they were coming from in making their decision and offer solutions. In the end, if a student or family still chose not to be in band, I operated with the mindset of “bless and release” which allowed me to remember there’s only so much I can control throughout the course selection process.
My recruitment and retention advocacy initiative was highly successful! My band program enrollment went from 135 to 196 students for this coming year. My retention percentages stayed at or around 85% for each grade level as well.
All stakeholders have a positive impression of our middle school band program as a result of building a larger audience through social media. More students are enrolled in band, our performances were well attended with a higher quality of achievement, and a larger number of participants in events throughout the year including fundraising, informal and formal concerts, day trips, in state and out of state field trips which encouraged a continuation in the band program for the future.
Ultimately, my students gained ownership of “our band” program at large and now hold a better outlook for future extensions or reinstatements of the supplemental opportunities in our band program which include United Sound, Jazz Band, football band, honor bands, and the student service/leadership team.
Advice for others?
It’s a year-long endeavor, as immersive/continuous. Set a calendar, help administrators/counselors with master scheduling. Be patient, maintain strong connections with all stakeholders, show them gratitude. Reflect on how music found you, why you chose band/chose to stay, how it enriches your life.