How do we keep students from quitting band? One of the ways we do it is by making sure every student has a job or a sense of purpose. By doing this, we ensure that each child feels valued, accepted, and essential. When young people feel that way, they are much less likely to leave our programs.
Every student should contribute in a positive manner to the direction in which the whole band is headed, and they should know that their contribution is significant! We can help kids find their unique talents and match those talents to particular positions or assignments. These jobs can be formal or informal. Formal jobs are pretty obvious and can include drum major, band officer, section leader, set up crew, marching band prop crew, etc. These jobs can exist at all levels, though, and do not need to only include the top students. Even second and third bands can have librarians or section leaders. In addition, many of these opportunities to serve the band can be opened up to everyone and not limited to a select few. All students can be assigned to the setup crew at different times throughout the year, and all students can have the opportunity to help behind the scenes at events. These kinds of opportunities provide a wonderful chance for students who are not in leadership positions to still serve the band.
In addition, students can frequently be assigned informal jobs and positions. Here are some examples:
- Students can serve as “buddies” to weaker students who may sit next to them in band, helping them to stay on task in rehearsal.
- A student can be assigned to make sure everyone has a pencil in rehearsal.
- A student who is organized can help other students organize their band binders.
- A student who is a strong counter can work one-on-one with those who need extra help in that area.
- Students who are academically strong can tutor other band members in subjects in which they struggle.
- Older students can almost always serve as models and teachers for younger students. Even with our weaker older students, we can find something that they do well with which they can serve as an example to the younger students. Almost everyone can help someone else with something.
The key is discovering a student’s strengths and then allowing them to use those to serve the band program.
When every student has a job, we create a culture in which every child knows that they are essential to the success of the band. They know that if they don’t show up, the band is not going to be as good or not going to run as smoothly. Our top students are more naturally going to feel this way, but we can help all our students feel this way. It’s essential that we teach our students that every single job is important and vital to the success of the band. For example, students who don’t receive marching spots and end up being on the prop crew can be disappointed with their role. But we can emphasize to both them and the entire band how important these roles are and encourage these students to take a lot of pride in their job. When every student has a job and knows they are vital to the band, they are more likely to continue to show up and continue to be a part of our program.
Bryn Roberts is in her 14th year as a band director. She is currently an assistant director in Frisco ISD at Reedy High School, which she helped open in 2015. Before coming to Reedy, Mrs. Roberts taught in Brenham ISD and at Westlake High School in Austin. She holds a Bachelor of Music and a Master of Music Education from Texas Tech University.
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