Come Back Strong for Fall 2021: Your Post-Pandemic Planning Guide

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Welcome to your Post-Pandemic Planning Guide to bring back music to your school.

Your program may have taken a toll this past year and rebuilding it will be challenging, but you are not alone. We are here to walk beside you and help you every step of the way to bring back the music!

Our guide has a singular focus: Rebooting and reinvigorating your recruitment and retention efforts. Every two weeks we will provide goals, ideas, action items, checklists and advocacy materials that you can use to get your administration, staff and, most importantly, prospective students excited about music making.


What Should You Expect?

Throughout the spring semester, you should expect to receive relevant content to help you prepare for the upcoming school year. This might include talking points for an impactful conversation with your principal, recruiting and retention ideas, and creative tools to ensure that music remains a cornerstone in your school in life after COVID-19.

Like anything you hope to strengthen, your recruiting program can benefit from regular “workouts.” We’ve built a 16-week training plan to guide you through the rest of the school year, breaking action items into manageable to-dos and helping you finish strong, with a full, robust program for Fall 2021.

Whether you’ve been with us from the beginning or are just finding us now, feel free to join in! Our plan is meant to build on itself in a logical way, so actions you take in Session 1 will pay off in successive sessions. However, each session is also a complete package, so you can also zero in on the session topic that you need help with the most.

Perhaps you have some thoughts on how we can improve the Post-Pandemic Planning Guide, awesome content that’s helped you or want to share what you are doing now to prepare for Fall 2021. Drop us a line here — we’d love to hear from you! 

Are you ready? Let's get started!

Click on the links below to go to specific Post-Pandemic Planning Guide Sessions:

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SESSION 4

This week, we’re focused on recruiting! With spring here, we must have a productive recruiting season to ensure our program is full and vibrant next fall.


In-Person Recruiting Ideas

If you are presently enrolled in in-person learning, here are some great recruiting ideas that we have borrowed from fellow educators.

  • “Blitz Week” — Pick a week for a recruiting “blitz” at your feeder programs or elementary school. Hang up posters around the school. Order campaign-style yard signs and place them in the carpool drive-through for parents to read. Welcome students as they are coming in and out of the cafeteria at lunch with a small ensemble performance. Submit a morning announcement or create a video to be played during the school’s morning broadcast. Scheduling a specific “blitz week” can be an effective way to reach incoming students. 

  • Drive-thru Instrument Safari — Take a page out of Jacob Campos’ book at Franklin High School and set up a date for parents to do a drive-thru instrument safari. Arrange your high school sections throughout the school parking lot and provide a safari path for parents to navigate with their child and listen to each section. Each section can pick a fun song to play that features their respective instruments. Students can vote on their favorite instruments, and directors can speak with each family after they have completed the safari — all while socially distanced and outside. 


Virtual Recruiting Ideas

Teaching virtually doesn’t mean your recruiting efforts will be any less effective as in previous years. Here are some ideas that will ensure next year’s class is as full as ever!

  • Be an Online Guest Artist — Schedule a time to digitally visit your feeder programs to act as a guest teacher or artist for the day. You can show brief videos or demonstrations of each instrument and talk to students about joining the band or orchestra. 
  • Utilize Student Videos — Student videos are a great way to recruit future members. Ask students to submit brief videos explaining why they joined the band or orchestra and what they enjoy the most. You can keep it simple or get creative.
  • Drop in a Cameo — The website www.cameo.com allows you to create a personalized video featuring television, music and movie stars. Here is a recruiting video Siegel Middle School created featuring Rick from “Pawn Stars” 


Hybrid and Blended-Learning Recruiting Ideas

Many teachers are teaching both online and in-person. Here are some recruiting ideas that translate to both in-person and online learning. 

  • Social Media Takeover — Coordinate with your school to do a social media takeover. This can be a great way to live-stream videos from inside your program. Feature your students, programs and accomplishments, and explain why students should join the band or orchestra. Many parents follow the social media accounts of their child’s school, and this can be a great way to reach these parents. 
  • Slideshow Presentation — Create a simple and fun slideshow that can be shown in-person or online. Schedule a time to speak with students, either in their homerooms, in a school assembly, during their music class or digitally. A slide show can be a great way to get students excited about joining your program — make sure to feature your current students and highlight accomplishments. You can also take the opportunity to address some of the FAQs that you get, such as can students participate in music and another school activity or club? Here is an example. 
  • Phone Calls — While an “old-school” approach, phone calls remain one of the most effective means of recruiting students. Calling parents individually allows you to speak one-on-one with parents to share your excitement about the program and uncover any concerns. Oftentimes, parents want their child to be in the band or orchestra but may have a misunderstanding about the conflicts or other commitments that might prevent them from enrolling their child. Here is a list of FAQs you might receive from parents and a phone script to kick off the conversation. 
  • Parks and Rec Programming — A summer parks and rec program is a great way to reach a wide audience and expose students to the joys of playing music. Many of these programs are being scheduled now so that registration can occur later in the spring. Here is more information. 


Don't Forget to Check-In

By now, we should be aligned with our building principal and counselor about our plans for next year. If not, a scheduled conversation can help bring everyone up to speed. But it’s important that you check-in regularly. Schedules and decisions can change, so you must be aware of any conversations that could impact your program. A casual conversation to confirm everyone is on the same page ensures that there are no surprises later. 


Resource Roundup

  • Be Part of the Music is an outstanding recruiting resource with more recruiting ideas, videos, email templates and even the ability to create a recruiting website for your school. 
  • Join “After Hours: Conversations for Music Educators” on March 9th for a panel discussion on recruiting ideas for the spring and summer. Register for this free webinar here

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SESSION 3

We hope you’ve found the first two sessions helpful and are taking positive action to build toward a strong Fall 2021. We’ve got your back and are going to walk beside you, step-by-step, in bringing back the music!

In this session, we have three big areas of focus:

  1. engaging another key stakeholder — your counselors,
  2. continuing to build momentum in our recruiting efforts and
  3. incorporating activities specifically designed to retain our beginning students


GOAL: Tap in to Your Counselor

meeting counselor JaoVGh5aJ3E unsplashIn Session 1, we outlined a conversation with your building principal that will help you plan for the coming year. This week, we turn our attention to having a similar conversation with your school counselor to determine how you can best partner with them to increase student enrollment.

Important things to consider: 

  1. Don’t wait for the counselor to reach out to you: A proactive conversation will determine if there have been procedural or date changes relating to signing up students.
  2. Plan ahead for the conversation. A planned conversation can help you identify any new “landmines” for this fall. Here is a list of considerations to prepare for your meeting


RECRUITING TIP: It's Elementary 

 In Session 2, we encouraged everyone to set a date to speak with students at their elementary school or feeder programs. If you have not already done so, be sure to set up a time. 
 If it's time for you to speak, here are 8 Tips for Recruiting you can use, whether the students are participating virtually or in person.


RETENTION TIP: Get S.M.A.R.T. 

While it's great that we are getting a jump-start on recruiting for next fall, don’t overlook the importance of retaining the students already in our program. Here is a great resource  that provides a “S.M.A.R.T. approach” to retaining the beginners presently enrolled in your program. 

Don't Forget 

If you haven’t started yet, now is the time to collect testimonials from your parents and students for use later in the spring for recruiting. This email/letter template from Session 1 can be sent home to encourage students and parents to share their experiences.  


Resource Roundup


Save the Date 

  • On March 9th at 5 p.m. CST, “After Hours: Conversations for Music Educators” will host a live podcast recording and panel discussion on recruiting ideas for spring 2021. Register for this free Zoom event here.
Let's keep the momentum going as we build toward a successful start to the upcoming school year! 


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SESSION 2

For this session, we’re focused on setting the table for credible, impactful conversations with your building principal, school board members and elementary school teachers. It’s important that we proactively share information with key decision-makers to ensure our program’s voice is heard throughout the spring and the entire decision-making process. 


Let's Talk Minimizing Risk in Music

There is still a great deal of concern relating to the spread of COVID-19 in our schools, so it's important that we are prepared to address this head on. Fortunately, there are significant studies underway that directly address how to minimize risk in the music classroom. Here are the key takeaways from the most recent findings in a long and abbreviated format. 

  • It's important we use the appropriate vocabulary when communicating these findings. These measures do not make music “safe,” but rather, “significantly reduce risk,” in some cases by up to 90%. We want to ensure that we are communicating this information accurately. 

We also want to communicate this information to our key decision makers in an easy-to-follow format, so that they can make the best decision possible. Don’t assume they know what you know! Here is an email template you can use to communicate this important information about safety measures to your decision makers. 

GOAL: Get Your Community Involved

It's vitally important that our community supports the arts, and who better to lead this charge than music teachers? The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) recently launched an initiative called “ARTS ARE EDUCATION.” You can find the press release for this initiative here. This is an easy, turnkey way to share the importance of music with your community and gather support. 

Get your community involved: 
 Take the ARTS ARE EDUCATION Pledge. Click here to do so. 
 
Ask parents to take the ARTS ARE EDUCATION pledge. 
 
Involve your building administration and build support for the arts by making them aware of this initiative. Here is an email template you can use to open the conversation. 
 
Request time (or enlist a few passionate band parents!)  to speak to your school board about the importance of music education and ask them to support the ARTS ARE EDUCATION initiative by signing the pledge. 
      • Budget decisions are already underway. Parents asking the school board to pledge support of the arts makes music a budgetary priority.

RECRUITING TIP: It's Elementary

Recruiting can never start too early, and elementary school music teachers are a great ally in this activity. Here are some things to do now to kick-off recruiting alongside your elementary school teacher:
 Begin collecting student testimonials to share later with prospective students at the elementary school. Current students can use Flipgrid or another recording software to record a few lines about why they joined band, orchestra or choir. Here’s an example.
 
Arrange with the teachers of the elementary programs to meet with their classes via Google Meet or other platform to provide an engaging session on “exciting music opportunities at the middle school.” This would be a great time to share videos of current high school or middle school students having fun making music! For now, just get a date set. We will send some content ideas in our next blast, but here’s a sneak peak of some great ideas if you’d like to get started. 

Step-by-step, we are going to get back to making music, together! 


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SESSION 1

Goal: Lay the Groundwork

teacher desk jesus hilario h 5v69Vl62NCM unsplashThis session is all about laying the groundwork. Our goal is to uncover any roadblocks that might present themselves later in the spring and to ensure that music has a voice at the table as plans are made for 2021-22. Have you considered these items to prepare for the fall?

 Touch base with your building administrator or principal to determine your teaching schedule for the coming school year as well as what needs to happen to have a successful recruiting season. Here is an email template to kick off that conversation and checklist of items to consider to ensure you are prepared for this conversation.

      • Remember: When framing your conversation with your administrator, be sure to present your solutions in the context of what’s best for the students.

 You may need to remind your administrator why music is a crucial part of the curriculum. Here is an example of a presentation successfully used by teachers in Lincoln, NE to ensure continued support of music programs.

 

Recruiting Tip: Prep Now 

We all know recruiting is 24/7, but it is more important than ever to be focused, organized and proactive. We’ll provide a recruiting tip or action item in every email to help and inspire you. Our tip this month is:  

 Start collecting written and virtual testimonials from your parents and students about the importance of music in their lives. These can be outstanding materials to help you recruit later in the semester. Here is a sample email letter you can use to collect these testimonials.

 

Resource Roundup

If you are looking for some more resources to help you with these conversations and to-do items, here are a few you might consider:

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