Strategies for Retention in Your Band Program

Strategies for Retention in Your Band Program

Have you taken a look at your band numbers for next year?  Are they right on track or not quite what you expected?  Have you noticed that one of your students is not on your class roster for next year?  These are all questions that we are faced with every school year.  In some cases, they can definitely be surprises!

Above all, we know that it’s most important for our students to be taught how to be good players and band members.  When our kids are engaged and learning, they won’t want to leave.  You have to share your enthusiasm and keep them motivated on a daily basis.  This article focuses on tips and suggestions to keep your band program thriving and most importantly, preserving the quality and success of your students year to year.

Give Credit to Individual Accomplishments

Be sure to recognize student success in your band classes with praise and positive reinforcement. 

  • Verbal recognition in class
  • Student leaders – Allow opportunities for students to be in charge of routine responsibilities in class. 
  • Band Bucks – A currency system that students can “cash-in” for prizes.  (Free prizes are the best!  Find free stuff at music conventions and businesses in your community.) 
  • Sticker charts/badge lines
  • Raffles – Students earn tickets for a chance to win prizes.
  • Pie in the Face – Teachers sponsor students and volunteer to take a pie in the face if they make the All-City/Region Band. 
  • retention in your band program  retention in your band program
  • Allow students to demonstrate and perform for the class.
  • Passing Parties (for students that are passing all of their classes)
  • retention in your band program
  • Promote private lessons and provide scholarship opportunities for students that need them. (Your booster club can help with this.  You could also reward hard-working students with private lesson gift certificates.)

Foster Pride & Group Recognition

Student leaders can help facilitate pride in your band.  Continue traditions and find motivating ways to recognize the band’s success. 

  • Have your younger students march/play in the Christmas Parade with older students
  • Start up a MS Winterguard or Jazz Band
  • Music Tech Jam Session – Students get to play their favorite tunes afterschool using technology/accompaniment/projector screen in the band hall.
  • Parties (Laser tag, movie party, ice cream social, video game party)


  • Band Buddies
  • Spring band trips and Spring music festivals
  • Perform at prestigious concert halls 
  • End of the year celebration (band video, banquet, BBQ)


Be sure that you are aware of all of the scheduling deadlines.  It’s also important that you understand what other extracurricular activities are being offered during your band classes to avoid potential conflicts. 

  • Regular counselor/Principal communication about timelines and requirements
  • Master schedule input (if your school allows you to take part in this, great!)
  • Elective and extracurricular teacher communication
  • Know the timeline…when are schedule cards due? How long do students have to make any changes?
  • Stay in touch with your students over the summer 
  • Promote summer lessons and band camp
  • Visit with kids individually (Some just need to hear that they are wanted and important to the band)
  • MS/HS Directors – Be present.  Make appearances at each other’s campuses on a regular basis.  The majority of attrition occurs when students change buildings.
  • Regular MS/HS director communication about timelines and requirements that involve both campuses.

Sarah Loudenback, an active educator and clarinet specialist, has taught band for 7 years and private lessons for 16 years.  The two most recent band programs she led each doubled in size in the first two years. She currently assists band directors with classes and also teaches woodwind private lessons (beginning, secondary, and college). Sarah enjoys playing duets with her husband (who also plays saxophone, clarinet, and flute) and spending time with her 2 toddler boys.

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