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Middle School Recruitment Approaches

I'm not new to teaching music, but I am new to teaching middle school chorus, and I'm looking for recruitment ideas for academic year 2016-2017. I jumped in 10 days ago after the former choral teacher had resigned in October and various substitutes have held the program together, but there has been lots of attrition over the months, and the numbers are very low.
My school (6th - 8th grade) has 6th - 8th grade band, but only 7th and 8th grade chorus. I believe I can establish a 6th grade chorus for next year, however, I will need to recruit. I also have 4 octaves of handchimes, which I have used with the chorus classes and they love them, so that could be a draw, if not for chorus, for a chime ensemble. 
The band director is very aggressive in recruitment, and with 6th grade band in place, it is easy for that to monopolize the music program. I would expect some competition from band, should I push for a 6th grade chorus. I look forward to your ideas and experiences in this endeavor. 
Thank you!
Amalie Hinson
Replies (6): Threaded | Chronological
on February 10, 2016 2:51am
Hello Amalie,
While it will take time, the first thing I'd do in your current situation is to establish relationships with the music teachers in the elementary feeder schools.  Email them.  Have breakfast with one or all of them one morning.  If you can muster enough singers together, pull some very simple songs together that the students enjoy and try to organize a "singing" exchange field trip where your choir sings a couple of simple songs for them and the elementary students do the same for your students.  It'll give you a goal, and it will help you begin to grow some deep roots that will serve you over time.
This month, I am doing videos on "How to Build your Middle School Choral Music Program" on my YouTube Channel.  Once I finish the series, I'm going to put it into a blog post with all links together.  Meanwhile, here is a link to the first four:
Hope that gives you some ideas!
Dale Duncan
Creator of S-Cubed Middle School Sight Singing Program for Beginners
My blog:
If you subscribe to the channel, you'll get notifications of the other posts if you wish.  
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on February 10, 2016 10:04am
Amalie, while I heartily agree with Dale, I would be quick to add three thoughts.  Firstly, some of the students you are attempting to attract perform in both band and chorus at the elementary level.  Their parents have paid for that instrument and your battle for that child may be lost, but you may be wrong in that assumption (Does it matter if the child chooses one music organization over another as long as the child is in music?  I never thought so as I was always for the child and not my ensemble as it would flourish anyway.)  The music that you perform for your feeder schools should be music that they want to hear, music geared to their likes, not music that is geared to you and your likes.  You want "honey to attract those bees."  I would most assuredly organize a handchime choir and then, once up and going, organize a second handchime choir, thereby creating a Beginners Handchime Ensemble and an Advanced Handchime Ensemble.  I would have the handchimes perform for the ES choirs without hesitation even if they only played a few notes during one choral composition and separately.  Make your program enticing to the future sixth graders: a winning organization.
on February 11, 2016 7:31pm
Thanks, John! Actually, our kids do not have band in elementary school. I would like to see administration consider allowing students to do both.
on February 12, 2016 8:02am
Amale, I know nothing about your school, of course, except what you have revealed to us.  But, with that in mind, I will tell you that allowing students to perform in a combination of any sort between band, orchestra, and chorus, at the MS level is quite difficult due to the manner in which middle schools schedule classes. In the old junior high, like the senior high, it was feasible.  But that is not always the case in today's MS.  I maneuvered my way around that problem by asking our band students if they would also like to be in the chorus.  I informed them that they would have to meet me after they eat their lunch during the lunch time and for a few moments before school.  Several raised their hands.  I met them individually to hear them sing.  I investigated their attendance and academic record and then I discussed them with the band conductor.  From all that information, I selected those that I wanted to have join chorus.  Those few students had sufficient talent to place them into my small choir.  We quickly worked on vocal technique and each worked diligently on developing their head voice.  The theory they would need was learned in the band program.  Most of them inquired if they could remain after school in order to learn their part in the music being performed by the large choir.  That was arranged.  But it was impossible for me to get them scheduled during the school day.  For that to happen, the student would have to leave the band program and join the choral arts program.  That causes a big wave which benefits no one.  
on February 13, 2016 10:37am
Hi Amalie
There are several key elements to a successful recruitment program. Of course direct contact with future students is important, but don't overlook the influence of parents, siblings, classroom teachers, school secretaries, custodians, cooks, bus drivers, etc.  Here is the plan: 1)  Have a small, select group of your 7th and 8th grade students ( six max) learn one or two motivational-fun songs -  2)  Get the group into your feeder schools and sing for individual classrooms, principal's office, cooks in the cafeteria, and at an elementary school faculty meeting ( just one song). I totally understand the logistics of these projects, but you would be surprised how much you can do with some administrative support. Also remember the recruitment program starts at home too. Sing for a faculty meeting, principal and secretaries, cooks and custodians and into a fellow teacher's classroom. Take the first step and reach out. Always DO something before you ASK for something. Works every time. Best of luck Amalie. Be patient and have fun!
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on February 15, 2016 10:01am
Amalie, I will give you two ideas that I have used that WORK. I guarantee it.
First, I sometimes, at the end of a class toward the beginning of the year when schedules can still be changed, give my students "homework". I say, "ok, here is your assignment. Think of a friend of yours who isn't in choir." Then I ask them if they have thought of someone. Then I say, "Ask them if they would like to be in choir!" I also, have the students give me their friends' names so I can call their parents and get permission to change their schedule.
Here is step 2. I then say if we get ____new members, we will have a pizza party. You determine a practical number of new students (3,4,5 or so). This has NEVER failed for me. It must be done when schedules are easily changed, though.
I also tell my students my story of how I got into choir---a friend asked me to join! Tell them your story and how you started!
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