Whether you’re a first year strings teacher or a dedicated veteran, recruiting new members is essential to your existence. And as the most seasoned professionals can testify, it’s a project that has a monthly focus, all year long. I’ll be posting monthly steps that you can take to assist you in your Strings recruiting starting early with next month: September.
For this first month, the sooner you can engage new members, the better your prospects for success. September is all about new possibilities. Elementary students are presented with numerous opportunities, and you will need to be a top priority for third-fifth graders.
September recruiting is also an important time to engage returning members, encouraging them to continue on the path for their second or third year. The reasons to continue should be well-defined and hold the promise of fun and adventure.
Success in recruiting is always based on a sense of higher purpose that even a third grader can understand. If you hold up a violin, viola, or cello and explain that the instrument is the key to two worlds: the world inside of us, and the world we live in, you will engage and connect with an elementary student’s active imagination and sense of wonder. And because music is the language understood around the world, a string instrument allows musicians to travel anywhere in the world and be understood and respected. Their instrument opens the doors to a promising new world. You will communicate with them on a whole new level.
International music travel was a component of my strings program, and the new recruits understood that every lesson was a step on the path that brought them closer to the day when they would be joining their friends in High School Strings, performing overseas on a European performance tour. (My students took nine music tours to Europe, traveling every two years) “Music is your passport,” was my regular mantra.
Was sharing music with the world a successful strategy? My program grew from 12 to 450 Strings students per year during my tenure in a small public school in Massachusetts. We visited Ireland, Italy, Austria, France, and England and performed for dignitaries in each country.
You’ll find great tips on what to play in your recruitment presentation, where to present your program, and some great tips on engaging prospective students from Mary Wagner, NAfME Orchestra Council Chair. She has an excellent post on the NAfME website titled Elementary Recruiting – A Year Long Activity.
Next time, I’ll give you some strategies for your second month of teaching. In the meantime, you can read about the total recruiting program that had surprising results:
About the Author
Ward Dilmore is a recently retired music teacher from Wilmington High School, MA where he grew his string orchestra from 12 students to over 450, in large part due to his incorporation of foreign travel into the program. Ward initially traveled with other companies, but once he found Encore, he never looked back. He has taken his ‘Strings Attached’ orchestra overseas with Encore 7 times, in total taking over 1,200 students abroad during his years at Wilmington.More Content by Ward Dilmore