Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Recruiting in difficult times


It’s an intimidating process, and can be difficult (or at least logistically challenging) in the best of times! Now, with everything closed and most folks under some kind of mandate to stay at home, recruiting will be that much harder.

But it is STILL a critical part of your program. Hope springs eternal that school will start normally this fall, and when it does, orchestra will be there. The question is: will there be any students to fill those seats in your beginning strings class. One thing that I have learned after many years of doing this, is that it won’t happen just by luck, or the fact that you are a fantastic teacher, or that their parents/brother/crazy uncle plays the violin. YOU will have to put in the effort to get those kids, and this year, you will have to be extra creative!

I have done instrumental recruiting in one form or another for over 20 years, at many schools, mostly in the Tidewater, VA area. During that time I have learned many things that work well, and some others that don’t! When you boil it all down, a successful recruiting campaign consists of three main components:

(1)    A successful in-person demonstration of the instruments, with flair, personality, and music that younger students will recognize.
(2)    Solid communication between the recruiting and an upcoming parent meeting to ensure high attendance and enthusiasm!
(3)    A parent meeting during which:
a.       you can speak to parents about the expectations of you and your program
b.       Parents and student can inspect instruments
c.       Students can register for strings, and in some cases:
d.       Rent an instrument to be delivered in the fall
As I mentioned earlier, this is a time-consuming process that requires careful attention and planning under normal circumstances!
I have put together a guide to help a director with no experience in recruiting carry out a successful program, and you can take a look at it here:

It is the product of many years of knowledge, and I am happy to share it with you! It has a “bare-bones” look to it, and I am in the process of revamping and redesigning it. However, the “meat” is all there, and I am sure you will find it useful!

The guide consists of six large steps:

(1)    Choose your schools, and set your dates
(2)    Confirm dates, Confirm performers
(3)    Gather materials, Reconfirm dates
(4)    Rehearse presentation
(5)    Student presentation
(6)    Parent meeting: class registration and instrument rentals.

Well, as we all know, these are anything but normal circumstances! With all of the restrictions in place, we must now convert this very successful, in-person model to one that can be accomplished online. Here is one way that I think this could be accomplished:

Six NEW steps:

(1)    Choose a platform that will allow you to be successful
a.       Google Meet and Zoom allow multiple “windows”
                                                               i.      Check with admin / school district policies
b.       Choose schools and set dates for virtual recruiting
c.       Coordinate with ES principals
d.       Coordinate with ES music teachers
                                                               i.      They are LOOKING for lesson plans at the moment. You may be their savior! 😊
e.       Find time when you can the es music teacher can present together
(2)    Find student performers who may be able to help demonstrate instruments
(3)    Gather your materials and make sure everything works!
a.       Software
b.       Instruments
c.       Reconfirm dates
(4)    Rehearse the presentation
a.       Use a script, and PRACTICE a couple of times so that you are comfortable doing this in front of the camera! Remember, this is salesmanship!
(5)    Host a virtual presentation for your prospective students! Remember to integrate your student performers, and HAVE FUN! Enthusiasm is contagious here!!
(6)    Host a virtual parent meeting, with virtual registration
a.       Send registrations to admin/guidance
b.       Work with music dealer to secure rentals
c.       Pick delivery date for instruments

I STRONGLY recommend enlisting the help of your local school-music dealer to assist in this process, if you aren’t already! They are the local PROS at recruiting, and will be able to provide you with additional resources to help you out. If you are relatively new to your district, they will know all of the inside tricks and procedures that are unique to your location, and know how to work around them. They are INVALUABLE!

In the next few days I will be putting out more information regarding recruiting, so stay tuned!


Chris, at home

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