Ideas to Help Your Band Program Grow
Great band programs don’t just happen. It takes years to build a successful band program. When our son started 5th grade, he joined the band. We rented a saxophone (with insurance of course) and sent him on his way. By the time the holiday program rolled around, we were excited to hear how well the band was progressing.
We were not prepared for 400+ kids on a stage that had to be extended to accommodate them. We were stunned by the eager attention they paid to their beloved director, dressed in a full tuxedo and brimming with energy. They blew us away with their performance and skill level they had achieved in only a few short months. It was the beginning of what has become an integral part of our son’s life, as well as many others’ lives. He is now a sophomore playing in one of the most successful and award-winning marching bands in the northeast.
Just like our son’s intermediate school, a feeder program helps build a successful band program. Dynamic instructors encourage participation and growth. They also understand that each level of instruction presents unique challenges and adapt accordingly (flexibility is key).
Sometimes there simply isn’t a program available at the intermediate level or students come into the program later. Consider middle-level and adaptive programs that support ALL students’ interest in the band. The goal is long-term growth and longevity.
A Culture of Inclusion and Success
One of the many things our marching band does well is create a culture of inclusion. High schoolers work with intermediate and middle schoolers throughout the year. All levels perform together for special events like football games and community parades. Middle school students transitioning to high school are assigned a “buddy” to help with questions or concerns. Sections host individual “get acquainted” picnics and parties so kids can connect on a smaller scale. These are all simple ways to foster an inclusive and friendly program that will stand the test of time.
Parents also play a role in the band’s success by joining the booster association. The boosters encourage each person to use his or her talents to support the entire band program. When everyone contributes, everyone wins!
Sync Schedules for Better Participation
When I was growing up, high school was a time to try all kinds of activities. You could be in the band, theater, and basketball if you wanted. These days, it seems like kids are pigeon-holed early. By the time they get to high school, they’re streamlined into one activity with schedules that preclude participation in others.
Band directors looking to build a successful band program must be willing to work with athletic directors and other club leaders to coordinate calendars. Encouraging cross participation benefits everyone’s program goals and gives students some much-needed diversity in their lives.
Partner with the Community
If you want to build a successful band program, you must be visible in the community. Volunteer your talented students to perform at community days, festivals, parades, and senior care homes. Get involved in outreach programs and invite the community in when possible. There’s no better way to build support than from the ground up.
If you really want to get students interested in your program, travel! Many successful marching bands have trips built into the yearly schedule. Apply for the Macy’s Holiday Parade in NYC or the Virginia International Tattoo. Plan a magical performance in Disney or an overseas adventure in London. There are SO MANY ways to incentivize your students with opportunities to explore the world.
Not all bands can take a big trip every year, but regional trips and competitions still make for great getaways. Students can also work toward a once-in-a-lifetime bowl performance every 4th year or a big city trip every other year. Travel is a fantastic way to reward your talented students and generate interest in your program for years to come.
As you work to build a successful band program, remember it’s a marathon and not a sprint. It takes time, energy, and a lot of creativity. These ideas will get you started but there are more resources below!
Updated from original publish date March 2020
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