Getting parents involved in the music programTodd Overbeck
Getting parents involved in the music program it a vital piece of the puzzle to be successful. The skills that a student obtains through music education plays heavily into their entire life. These skills include being responsible, knowing how to communicate, teamwork, self-confidence, and a work ethic that most students do not experience in other academic subjects. Parents appreciate the value of a student’s education in music and the skills acquired. And parents involved in the music program and their children’s lives are the kind of parents that can be a blessing to the music program.
Parents/Guardians can not only keep the band hydrated, they act as Chaperones, Coordinators, Drivers, Cooks, Mentors, they assemble and design props, they manage fund-raisers, they act as Cheerleaders (please don’t ask the band dads to dress in skirts and shake pompoms though), furthermore just about anything you can think of. Band parents ARE part of the band. So it is so important for Music Directors to always keep band parents in mind when recruiting students.
“We have tried several things over the year. What works for us is a big push with new parents right at the start of the year. Everything is new for our freshman (parents included) so we go out of our way to try and meet these parents and make them feel welcome. We do a freshman parent social during the first week of band camp where we invite all the new parents, I do a brief introduction, and then some veteran parents explain what our music program is all about. The goal is to not sign anyone up that night, but instead to make them feel welcome and like they are part of the family. We also do a parent performance at the end of our band camp and that is where we start talking to all of our parents about the needs of the program and how they can help. My parent group is amazing and many of the parents socialize together outside of music. This family atmosphere is also a huge recruiting tool for us as the word of mouth alone bring many parents into the fold.”
How do Music Directors get parents involved?
Before your year even starts, have a marketing campaign ready that is focused on parents. Be resourceful by including information in the school’s newsletter. Every parent gets a copy and it’s free advertising. Right out of the gate, it is also a great idea to send letters to the parents of all of the incoming students explaining the music program and invite parents and guardians to a meeting.
In the meeting, you want to keep in on the short end. Have current parent boosters at the door to welcome prospective parents. It is great to start with explaining the music program and the valuable role of the parents. Collect as much information as you can from parents but don’t try to push them into any commitments. Include what is expected of the students, scheduling lessons, and the commitment involved in practicing. See if you can get someone from the school’s administration to attend to show the importance of your program. Give parents some advice on how they help with the practicing at home. It is going to be important that the students don’t lose motivation and the parents will play a huge role from home. Just also make sure that you are not overwhelming parents right away because you are also asking for their help too. Parenting is a full-time job and sometimes it is difficult to help a parent/guardian to step back and realize the opportunity that is in front of them is a benefit for them as well. Getting involved in the music program will give parents/guardians the opportunity to share moments with their child in the last 4 years of their high school education. These years are precious and sometimes hard for a parent/guardian to connect with their child…and it really does goes by quickly. This is a wonderful opportunity for parents to be involved in the community, help their child see that they appreciate a parent/guardian being involved, and new bonds can be created. It helps to show the importance of being a part of the program by having a past band parent speak about the benefits of being involved. Having current band members playing as parents/guardians enter can help too. Is it beneficial to keep meetings going by having a monthly meeting where parents/guardians can learn more about the program and where they can help. Be consistent with when the meeting is, so parents are more likely to attend. If the parent has any organizational skills, they are planning their life in advance and having a consistent date makes the probability of attending increase. It might be difficult to do it on the spot, but if you can take a live poll of when a date is the most convenient for the most parents, that helps. And if a parent doesn’t attend, follow up with them with emails and phone calls to keep them in the loop. Also, it is great to plan a social event soon after the meeting to get the parents involved.
A good example of social events might be asking for help with tailgating. Parents and guardians are likely to be at these events anyways. Band parents have been known to set up meals for band students before to every home game. This gives you, the Music Director, the chance to engage the parents.
“Create a successful program through hard work, so that the students learn success. This success can, through careful guidance, translate into a love of performance and achievement that becomes contagious. Tell parents what kind of progress the students are making to build rapport and open lines of communication. When parents notice the excitement in their student and realize something good is happening, they are far more likely to get engaged with the program.
Identify the areas of need – booster leadership, chaperone support, financial stability, and fundraising as well as other needs like uniform help, props, hospitality (food and meals), and more, and make those areas known to the band community. When parents know what the needs are, your solicitation to help allows them to select areas in which they are most comfortable and feel useful. At booster meetings, talk honestly and professionally about what’s going well and what could use some shoring up. The key is parents understanding and acknowledging what their student gains from the program, then communicating ways in which they can assist not only their own student’s continued growth but that of the program as well.”
Are your band parents and students ready to take the show on the road? Contact Music Travel Consultants to start planning your trip.