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NBJH Bands Alumni Festival

Northbrook Jr. High School, IL
1475 Maple Avenue, Northbrook, IL, USA

Project Description

The NBJH Band Alumni Festival is a biennial event, supported by the music faculty, music booster program, and administration of Northbrook School District 28.

The purpose of the event is to connect our current band students to our NBJH Bands alumni that value their time in our program, viewing it as foundational to who they are today. We’ve found that the interaction between the alumni and students has a positive influence on the likelihood that our students will continue to participate in music at the high school level.

The event is held in December on alternating years, scheduled strategically around two factors: (a) a late December date so that alumni currently attending college will be home for winter break, and (b) the event is close to the time when 8th graders will register for freshman classes.

We reach out to alumni via email beginning in the fall of the school year when the Festival is scheduled. We taken steps over the years to build and maintain an accurate email and address list for our alums and their families. Our alums that have graduated high school are invited to enroll through the form on our website. We make visits to the high school band program throughout the fall semester to encourage participation by our alumni; they can response via text message to a Remind group.

Additional outreach efforts include letters sent to alumni families, and publication of event information with local newspaper outlets.

Over the years, we’ve seen participation by alumni with graduating years spanning five decades!

We share with our alumni that their participation – at any level, from honored audience member to distinguished performer – is impactful on our current student body.

The music programmed for the event is progressive, meaning the difficulty of the selections generally increases as the concert continues. This allows us to offer a rewarding experience for any alumni, regardless of their current proficiency on their instrument. All are welcome, and we provide instruments for alumni that no longer have their own.

The concert program itself begins with several selections performed by our wind ensemble, followed by two pieces from the advanced jazz band. We feature a special guest alum performer in the middle of the evening. The concert concludes with several selections from the wind ensemble. Alumni perform alongside our students throughout the program, with both the wind ensemble and jazz band.

Our administration is supportive and engaged in the event. Our superintendent submits a letter of support for the concert program and attends, and our principal at NBJH welcomes the audience and alumni as emcee at the start of the Festival. All of our district band staff participate fully, performing and conducting to contribute to the success of the evening.

The event concludes with a reception for students, faculty, alumni and their families, offering one more opportunity for all the participants to connect – or reconnect – as a result of their love for music.

Target Audience

Our target audience for this project are the 8th grade band students, with the timing of the event close to the time when they will make the decision on enrolling in a music class at the high school level. We have found the NBJH Bands Alumni Festival to be a positive influence on the whether or not they choose to continue to participate in music.

Our secondary audience are the alums who have continued to enjoy performing beyond NBJH. We wish to support their continued engagement in music-making, and allow them to reconnect to the time and place when their love for music began. We also offer this opportunity as a way for them to show support and “give back” to our music program through their participation.

Finally, we see this as an opportunity to engage the community, inviting parents and family of alumni to join us.

Overall budget

$200

Specific Budget Breakdown

The budget for the NBJH Bands Alumni Festival is small, as the event requires very little funding. The expenses are largely related to the reception following the Festival, and a small amount for office supplies.

  • food and supplies for reception = $150
  • office supplies (name badges) = $50

The music boosters support the event with the funding, as well as volunteers to assist with alumni registration and the reception.

This event fits into the regular concert cycle for the NBJH Wind Ensemble, allowing us to leverage the resources provided by Northbrook School District 28. These include the performance space, concert program printing, and custodial support.

New or recurring project?

Recurring

How did you update/change this project from its previous occurrence?

At each iteration of the NBJH Bands Alumni Festival, we make tweaks to match the needs of the schedule, the students, and the alumni.

For the most recent event, we substituted a percussion ensemble feature for a guest solo feature by one of our alumni. The reasons were two-fold: the pre-concert rehearsal was too time-constrained to guarantee a successful percussion ensemble feature, and the solo feature was the best fit for our featured alumni performer at this particular event.

The steady growth and regular adjustments made at each event has allowed us to arrive at a stable format that meets the goals of the program and needs of the participants. The format allows for participation by alumni with a wide range of proficiency on their instruments, as well as those alumni that have a preference when choosing jazz or concert genres.

Measurement of the success/effectiveness of this project?

Our primary goal for the NBJH Bands Alumni Festival is to influence the decision-making process as our current students are making choices for their freshman year in high school. We want to give them concrete evidence that their continued efforts in pursuing music have a positive effect on their lives for years to come.

The key indicator that we use to gauge effectiveness is considering the matriculation rate of our students from our band program into any of the music performance opportunities at the high school level.

The data from the two most recent graduating classes when we did NOT hold an Alumni Festival (2015, 2017) shows our matriculation rates landing in the range of 60-70%.

According to the data from the three most recent graduating classes when we DID hold an Alumni Festival (2014, 2016, 2018), our matriculation rates increase to roughly 80%.

Of course, we do not have hard data to measure the impact this has on our alumni. We do, however, continue to see enthusiastic participation by alumni from across a wide range of graduation years. Their feedback – through their participation and stories they share during the reception following the event – makes it clear that they value deeply the experience from their time in our band program, as well as the opportunity to give back to the program, positively impacting the choices of their younger colleagues.

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

The success we’ve enjoyed with this endeavor are the result of a number of factors, and these factors could be cultivated in any situation to help guarantee success.

First, we have a great working relationship with our colleagues at the high school level. They have been very supportive of the event and its goals, often guest conducting and/or performing at the Festival.

Second, we’ve been diligent in maintaining an accurate alumni email and mailing list. When alumni participate, we collect their current information. We also encourage our alumni to connect with us on social media, and they can always update their contact information via our website.

Lastly, our messaging to alumni encourages not just that their participation is needed (and essential!), but that their participation is *impactful* on our current students. They can tangibly give testimony to our students that striving for excellence leads to meaningful accomplishments, and that these accomplishments resonate for years to come, positively impacting who they are as people. We engage our alumni in the purpose and goals of the event from the start!

Supporting Materials

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