Music Ed Mentor Podcast #015:
Ultimate Recruitment Guide

Music Ed Mentor Podcast #015: Ultimate Music Student Recruitment Guide

Savvy music educators know that getting students signed up for their program is a critical part of the job. If your program isn’t growing, it isn’t thriving. Having a great recruitment and retention strategy not only keeps your ensembles sounding great, but also helps expand your budget, secure support from the community, and show value to administrators.

Most importantly, you’re sharing the benefits of a musical education to as many students as possible.

What should a recruitment and retention strategy look like? What can you do this spring to make sure enrollment numbers look great in the fall? In this episode I’m joined by Wendy Higdon, a fabulous band director and recruiting expert, to answer these questions and more. We’ll go over a long-term recruiting timeline, look at simple things you can do this week to improve retention, and share our favorite resources for this crucial topic.

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In This Episode, You’ll Learn How To:

  • Plan ahead so that recruitment isn’t overwhelming
  • Manage each stage of the instrument selection and fitting process
  • Involve parents and other students in the recruitment and retention process

Three Key Takeaways

“The first step is to determine the date that students sign up for the courses. This is your ‘D-Day’.”

As a director, all your efforts are focused on getting students to say “yes” on that day. Build your timeline and strategy backward from that day. Start early, and intensify your efforts as you approach that crucial day. Because each school may have a different “D-Day,” customize your timeline around your own situation.

“Get your ensembles performing as much as possible for the incoming students.”

Performances not only show incoming students what they can be a part of, it’s also a chance for older students to aid in the recruitment process. Seeing older students participating in music gives younger kids something to aspire to — and makes music cool in the process.

If you want to take this approach as far as possible, consider having younger students perform alongside your more experienced ensembles. Give your recruiting audience a taste of the big leagues!

“Organize your materials!”

Staying organized will help your recruitment process run smoothly. Wendy and I begin organizing things six months ahead of our sign-up day. This gives us time to create Google Forms, create letters specifically for parents of prospective students, confirm sign up information with your administration, work with teachers at feeder schools, and recruit volunteers to help with instrument fittings.

When you’re sending letters, emails, or other information, consider the audience. Parents need a different message about the benefits of being in music than the prospective students do. Tailor your message to your audience!


Elisa Janson Jones specializes in helping music educators build, grow, and manage thriving school music programs. With an MBA alongside her degree in music, she is also a coach and consultant to small businesses and nonprofits around the country, and serves as the conductor of her local community band. She has been teaching music for nearly 20 years and currently holds the prestigious position of elementary music teacher at a private K-8 Catholic School in Grand Junction, Colorado. Elisa was a top presenter at the NAfME National Conference in 2017 and will be presenting at state conferences in 2018. She is the founder of the International Music Education Summit and the author of The Music Educator’s Guide to Thrive.

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