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CGHS Music Matters Middle to High Retention Plan

Cedar Grove High School, NJ

90 Rugby Road, Cedar Grove, NJ, USA
Cedar Grove School District
Director: Jennifer Jessen-Foose
Category: Middle School Retention Program
Award: Silver, 2019

Project Description

We believe in the importance of retaining our music students from the Cedar Grove Memorial Middle School as they transition to Cedar Grove High School. Approximately half of the slightly over 500 students at the middle school are involved in music, that is over 250 students in either the Choir, Band or Orchestra. Many scheduling challenges face our students when they transition to the high school due to our small size and limited class offerings. We wanted to make sure to identify the students who wanted to keep music in their schedules and be sure they were afforded access to these classes, while at the same time, accommodating other required classes. Many families did not realize that with increased communication with guidance at the high school, these students could keep music in their lives while still filling their schedules with other courses they wished to take. In an effort to bridge the gap between the schools, the CGHS Music Advocacy Committee launched a campaign that focused on the music program at the high school and ways to effectively convey this information to our middle school families. The committee created a tri-fold that was distributed at Middle School music concerts, as well as, the CGHS Open House. Students also created an Advocacy Video where students advocated un-scripted on the subject of why music was an integral part of their lives. In addition, both the middle school and high school students collaborated on concert performances, as well as, allowed the middle school students to participate in the high school pep band. Young students in the district were also offered opportunities to participate in the high school musicals. Many of these cross-promotional opportunities allowed the middle school students to see first-hand what it was like to be part of the music program up at the high school. The high school students became mentors and as a result, they created an environment where the younger students grew in their enthusiasm and desire to stay within the music program. The camaraderie and support was contagious and many students couldn’t wait to be a part of it. The video can be found at:

Target Audience

The target audience for this project is primarily the students and families at the middle school level within the Cedar Grove School District Our secondary targets are students and families already at the high school level that have struggled to keep music in their class schedules.

Specific Budget Breakdown

The activities and events did not have a cost associated with them. The opportunities created within the district for the younger grades held no additional cost and the additional materials distributed were completed by parents and students at no cost. There were many ways to convey the positive aspects of the music program by enhancing communication between the schools and allowing students to advocate for themselves and for other students.

New or recurring project?

New Project

Challenges/obstacles that were encountered

The challenges with this initiative were making sure to get the right information in front of the right individuals. We are lucky to have a supportive booster club and students with a passion for music who were willing to take the time to talk to younger students and families at these events. We are also fortunate to have music directors with open communication with the school administration. The challenges are on-going due to our small district size, but communication has been the key to a good working relationship between the music program and the school administration.

Measurement of the success/effectiveness of this project?

The effectiveness of this project is difficult to quantify. Due to our school size, scheduling difficulties have become a challenge. Students want and need music in their schedules, but they are also focused on getting Honors and AP classes that they’ve earned the right to take, as well. What has been most successful has been the increase in dialogue between the music department and the administration. Because the students continue to advocate for themselves, their concerns are truly heard by staff and families alike. Students themselves are very relatable to other students, especially those in 8th grade in the process of building their high school schedules and are very excited to be part of a highly successful music program, despite the challenges faced due to small school size. About 10 choir, band, and orchestra students were unable to fit music into their schedules last year. This year, there are less than 5. Although the numbers are small, so is our high school enrollment. We consider this a huge success and attribute a great deal of the improvement to the enhanced communication with guidance as they are establishing their scheduling process. The students were heard, and the school responded. Parents and prospective students received more information at school events informing them on the many opportunities in the music program at the high school. We are so excited for them!

Advice for someone looking to replicate this project in their own community?

Keep the students involved. They are the best advocates for music and what is important to them. The boosters can help provide them with materials, but it speaks volumes when information, opportunities, and a passion for music comes directly from them.

Supporting Materials

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