Promoting music clubs is an integral part of a music teacher’s job. Not only does a full roster keep the music department alive and thriving, but it’s excellent Public Relations for the school. It keeps parents happy.
But how do we promote music clubs when we are in direct competition with various activities, such as sports, Model United Nations, speech & debate, and more?
Here are some helpful tips:
Forging Relationships with Coaches
Promoting music clubs is difficult if your kids are constantly at competition activities. We are all sharing the same students, so we need to learn to get along with everyone involved. At my school, we have a great relationship with the Athletics Direction and the Activities officer. However, I don’t know many / any Performing Arts teachers who don’t have – at one time or another – a love/hate relationship with them. After all, we are often vying for the same kids. It’s challenging to hear that our musical star will be going to a sports tournament in another country the same weekend as production camp. Equally, it’s frustrating when half the orchestra quits because junior football has just switched to your day.
The first step in promoting music clubs is to have an excellent relationship with the other activities leaders who will influence your numbers.
For me, this means the Athletics Director, the Model United Nations supervisor, and the Swim Coach. We start each year with a lunch meeting in which we lay out which dates are non-negotiable versus which dates have wiggle room. Then, we can go back to our respective kids and tell them, “You can be in volleyball and production at the same time, but you have to choose between ping pong and production.”
My greatest asset is the Athletics Director. He’s made a fantastic rule that junior players are allowed to attend only once per week and that senior sports happen 1 1/2 hours after school. We run our Performing Arts activities after school, once a week; because we are only once, we prioritize sports. E.g., we can say to students, “You have to attend band on Mondays, but you can also attend cross country on Thursdays.” It’s an excellent win for the kids who want to do both activities. The only times this is a problem is when you have an over-enthusiastic senior coach who tells his players that they must show up 15 minutes early. But that’s not a problem because a quick face-to-face conversation fixes that.
Face to Face with an Enrollment List
Face-to-face conversations with an enrollment list in hand will solve the majority of your problems. We know that emotions don’t transfer over well in emails, and this problem is worse at International Schools. Your colleagues all come from different cultures and experiences, and emails are sometimes read differently than in their written tone. Early in my career, I discovered that problems could be quickly solved through a brief chat in the staff room with a list in hand.
Me: Hey AD. How are ya? Listen, I see that our Christmas bazaar is the same weekend as your football friendly in town. Could you possibly take a look at these kids for me?
AD: … (reads the list and points)… only one of those students is on the football team. Are they important to you?
Me: My soloist.
AD: We get back at five… anyway to put her performance at the end?
Me: Definitely. Perfect. Thanks for the help.
The athletics department has their trophy cases, right? Well, depending on what type of international school you are at, there might not be opportunities for the Performing Arts department to collect their trophies. BUT we still need to celebrate excellence! Creating a gallary/walk of fame is great for promoting music clubs. Mine comes with three parts:
Musician of the Year
Musicians of the year are honored at the awards assembly at the end of each school year. These awards are in conjunction with sportsman of the year and volunteer of the year. The requirements for musicians are:
* Participating in several music clubs
* Being prepared with sheet music printed, pencils, ready, and having already practiced
* Taking on leadership roles in one of their clubs and being a good role model for others
* Being a nice person (because I’m not going to give the musician of the year award to a mean prima dona, so yes, one of my requirements is they have to be kind to others.)
The celebrated students get a printed certificate and a polished, fancy etched glass trophy with their name and the year on the bottom. A plaque showcasing past honorees hangs outside the music suite (and directly across from the main stairwell and elevators, so it’s always the first thing anyone sees when walking to the maths department!) The students love this plaque so much that I often see them taking photos of it, or having a selfie beside it, after the ceremony.
Seniors Wall of Fame
It’s hard to keep DP students in music clubs. They become so overwhelmed with the rigor of the Diploma Programme that they sometimes can’t handle staying. We keep them in grade 11 because they need creativity for their Creativity, Action & Service requirement. In Grade 12, students leave because they are overwhelmed by their internal assessments. Thus, promoting music clubs to seniors is really important. Our answer to this problem (copied from the Athletics Department, I admit!) is a Seniors Wall of Fame, and do our kids ever love it!
Under this, we have a template listing the students’ names, their roles in the music department, and their year. Photoshoots for the Senior Wall of Fame are always fun, as well. This past year, seniors came in on the weekend, all in their best clothes, and had portraits taken by a grade 10 photography student.
In the case of the example here, the student was in our Conductor’s Leadership Programme, where he led the Advanced Orchestra. He also acted as the producer for a majority of our signature events.
You may be wondering whether we have criteria for who gets on the wall. The answer is definitely yes! This wall garners a lot of attention because it hangs in a fantastic location, where everyone sees it. People want on this wall!
My criteria are that they must have contributed to performances throughout their senior year (not just at graduation evening), and they must meet the music department’s essential agreements:
Respecting each other means you are pleasant to everyone, even when you are a senior and you find the grades 6s a bit annoying. Respecting equipment means you clean up after yourself! And respecting the audience tells you not to play songs filled with swear words during a whole school assembly. These three general rules cover pretty much any issue that arises.
Longest Serving Musician
International schools sometimes have very transient populations, so having someone in an ensemble for nine years non-stop is special! It’s also a great role model for other students because it highlights perseverance, dedication, and commitment.
Promoting Music Clubs in Your School's Social Media
Part of getting kids into your activities is promoting music clubs to the parents to see what clubs are available. At the start of each year, we do a big media blitz in our parents’ WeChat groups.
We created these examples specifically for cellphone viewing. Popping these into chats always causes a great stir in the parents, and I end up flooded with emails asking if their children can join.
We also write one music bulletin article per week for the parents. People consume information fast and efficiently, so the bulletin articles are formatted to be read on one laptop or cellphone screen without scrolling. Here’s an example.
Lastly, we collaborate with our school’s marketing department to put out content about the Music Department. I wrote an article and the marketing department wordsmithed: The Many Benefits of a Music Education.
As I discussed above, one of the incentives of joining a music club is the possibility of getting on the honour wall outside the music department. However, there are far more yummy incentives as well.
In a word: Baking. Once a week or so, I’ll make millionaire bars, Nanaimo bars, or shortbread cookies for my music kiddos. I’ll hand them out at the end of rehearsals, but if I have any leftover, then the next day, I’ll hand them out to anyone who didn’t get one. In particular, I’ll find my DP students who dropped out of orchestra because of #dpstress, and I’ll give them a little sweet and remind them that they will still be playing in the graduation band in 2 years.
I once had a student who was allergic to almost everything. Each week, I would change my recipes to be allergy-friendly and send the recipe to her mom for approval. It made a great sense of camaraderie and friendship when the choir could eat all the treats together.
Promoting Music Clubs through Parent Emails
When I see a student who wants to join a club but isn’t allowed, I email the parents to help give a little push. Just this year, I had two grade 6 students tell me that they wanted me to join, but their parents said no because they needed to focus on their school work.
“Dear Ms. and Mrs. Parent,
Your child has expressed interest in joining the Secondary Choir. This is excellent news! The choir has benefits for both the child’s music education and yearly volunteer requirements. At NIS, students must volunteer at least once per semester in grade 6. The choir performs at various volunteer events, including charity Christmas tree lightings, charity benefit concerts, and charity holiday markets. Allowing your child to join will fulfill their volunteer obligation. It will also help them achieve more in music class because they will gain music skills that are important for Criterion B (especially how to work in an ensemble.)
I hope you will consider allowing your child to join. If you have any questions or comments, please do contact me at any time.
I force my DP Music students to be in music clubs. Yes, it’s true. However, in my defense, I also treat my clubs like an extension of classes.
I have a student playing Concertino for Flute Op.107 by Chaminade for her Presenting Music assessment. She needs an orchestra, and I have one for her. Therefore, she stays in Advanced Orchestra because it’s helping her fulfill her DP Music requirements. After her club, she needs to write reflections in her process journal on what went well, what needs to be improved, her decisions, how it feels to play with an ensemble, etc. She’s already written a score analysis of the piece.
One student on drums struggled to put together a live drumming portfolio of 18 minutes (the old guide). He was in Advanced Orchestra, and we performed “The Evolution of Music” by Pentatonix. We ended up submitting the entire piece (7 minutes long) because he played 20+ different styles in one piece.
So yes, DP Musicians must stay in DP clubs.