“We Saved a Seat for You!”
Awtrey Middle School Band
The Awtrey Middle School Music Department strives to present our Music Programs (Band, Chorus, Orchestra) has some of the strongest programs on Awtrey’s campus. We want all incoming 6th grade students to choose our programs to be the future leaders in our program. We are dedicated to the marketing and promotion of all students joining a music program. We use promotional videos, music department “swag” and use our current students as a large part of our recruitment, “We’ve saved a seat for you!” in our program.
Our objective is to showcase all aspects of our programs, high levels of performance, engagement, team building, work ethic, celebrations, and of course, music making. We would like to present all rising 6th grade students exposure to what we do each day in our music programs, and for them to actually choose our classes/programs. We do a week long rotation of all 6th grade students during the first week of school where they receive two rotations of each music program. In band and orchestra, students are allowed to try instruments, and they are able to experience different choral exercises in chorus. Once the rotation is complete, students are all given a postcard with information about the Awtrey Music Programs, and a QR code to the “Golden Ticket” where they sign up with their parents over the weekend. They are put in schedules the following week. Students are also allowed to choose to be in two music programs. Our objective is to provide an opportunity for all 6th graders to experience and potentially fall in love with music through our classes.
Our target audience if all 5th graders coming to Awtrey. We work extremely hard to create an enticing experience for all students to join our classes. It is not mandatory for 6th graders to do a music course at my school, and we want the students to be excited about having a choice and being able to want to do our class, rather than it be assigned.
Our recruitment starts in the previous spring before the new school year. We print yard signs that say “Awtrey Music, We Want You!” and post them in front of each of our 3 elementary schools. We also print out a flyer with all 4 music director pictures, a welcome letter, and an FAQ about middle school music programs. We also give every 5th grader an Awtrey Music Pencil (pencil with our logo on it) and an Awtrey Music sticker. These are delivered to the elementary school teachers who had them out. We also schedule a visit with our main feeder, with permission from our principal who allows us to get subs for our classes, and meet with all of the 5th graders where we also give our Awtrey Music T Shirts for those students who can answer our questions after our presentation correctly. The students also come to a Rising 6th Grade Night tour at the school, where we have our jazz band, percussion ensemble, string quartet, and 6th grade chorus perform. We also created two recruitment videos that we ask our elementary school teachers to show towards the end of the year. And finally, we have all of our current middle school students compose a letter to an incoming 6th grader on why they should join band, chorus, or orchestra. We have our second language students also write a letter in their native language for any ESOL or IEL students in 5th grade.
Overview of Planning and Execution
Our music department were the main people involved in the planning and creation of the advocacy initiatives, with supporting roles from our principals and assistant principals. Stephen Cagle, the associate director, created all of the videos, filming, editing, and creation. Our orchestra teacher Clay Rogers paid for all of our yard signs and giant banner, I ordered all pencils, stickers, and T shirts, and created the Welcome Flyer, Post Card, and Golden Ticket, and created the template of the letter, our chorus teacher Michelle Mitchell dropped off materials to elementary schools.
Tools and Resources
Fundraising funds, Adobe Premiere, Sticker Mule, Music in Motion, Microsoft Publisher, Microsoft Forms, local print shop, local sign shop, local t-shirt shop.
Marketing and Promotion
Our strategy was to space out our presence to the elementary schools but not so much time passing so that they forgot about us! We also strategized our rotations, hiring professional clinicians to come in to demonstrate the instruments, using older students in our program to help promote, and performing in small groups for the students to hear us play on each instrument. Our strategy was to also think outside of the box, it is always a mystery what may be something appeal to a student. They may really like our videos, or been inspired hearing our jazz band play at their tour, or love getting our pencil, sticker, and t shirt, or maybe they received a really meaningful letter from one of our current students. We provide a lot of different method of recruitment to try and connect with as many students as possible.
- Adobe Premiere subscription – $240
- Stickers – $373
- Banner/yard signs – $376
- Postcards – $96
- Pencils – $263
The biggest challenge for us was not having the opportunity to have as much facetime as we would like when the students are in 5th grade. We would like to be able to bring student performers over and to see them most consistently but we all have our own classes to run and finding subs to have all four teachers out of the building in the largest classes can be difficult. To counteract this, we create the videos, flyers, and letters to hopefully be a close second to in person.
Our initiative was effective, as our final 6th grade numbers in the music programs at my school was 170 out of 204 students. That is 83.3% of the entire 6th grade body chose to be in a music program. In band alone, we have over 300 students, which is nearly half of the entire school (633 students).
Our advocacy initiative positively impacts our school because we have strong programs that are students stay committed to. We have high retention rates from 6-8 and high retention rates from middle school to high school band. We are also very involved with our high school band feeder programs, and they do a lot to collaborate with us. They host 6th grade carnival events for our 6th grade band students, in tandem with one of the marching band’s Saturday rehearsal. They hire an instructor for each instrument and this is a kick start event for our students, which is also great recruitment for them. Our high school feeder directors also help us with instrument try outs during our 6th grade rotations, which means even from the high school down, they are involved with the livelihood of our programs, as it is also the lifeblood of their own.
Advice for others?
My advice would be to always think outside the box. I have found that students all join for different reasons. They may really like our videos, or be influenced by getting our sticker/pencil/shirt, or they may love hearing our jazz band play at their tour, or the letter from a middle schooler.