band member retention rates.

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by bandman, May 8, 2006.

  1. bandman

    bandman Forte User

    Oct 16, 2004
    Lafayette, LA, USA
    I’m looking for any statistics put out by national or state music organizations on the retention rate of band members in school band programs. Any help you could give me in finding these numbers would be appreciated.

    This year I lost 3 of 43 beginners and only 1 student from my older three classes. I’m happy with this retention because that means my percentage is about 96%. I’m trying to stress retention to some of the other band directors in my area who have a “weed them out†philosophy. My attitude is that some of those “weeds†may turn out to be some of your best band members in a few years.

    We have one program that loses about 40%-50% of beginners every year simply because his attitude is that he doesn’t care if they come back or not. His pay is not based upon the number of students in the band, nor based upon how well they do at festivals or competitions. I was hoping that I could at least give him some numbers to shoot for so that his program could be at the average for schools across the nation.
  2. Dave Mickley

    Dave Mickley Forte User

    Nov 11, 2005
    I work in a pretty large place, around 3000 people and a lot know that I play trumpet so I am always hearing "band" stories. The biggest complaint and reason that the kids quit band here is marching band contests. The standard rule around here is if you don't participate in marching band then you can't play in any band and this takes up your summer and you can't work. I had one father come to me about his 16 year old son who loved the trumpet and was first chair but his parents told him if he wanted to drive he had to pay the insurance,mom and dad would buy his first car. Well the band practiced 8-12 in the morning and 6-8 in the evening and he couldn't find a summer job that allowed him to work 1-5. The boy actually spent over a day in his room crying trying to make a decision, he finally came out, handed his dad his trumpet and quit band. I talked to the band director and he said if he allowed the kids to skip marching band he wouldn't have enough to compete. He actually didn't care for the contests but the band boosters pushed it and the school board said it was a requirement for the directors position. I have heard variations of the same story from many people that had kids in various schools in central Indiana. Dave
  3. beartrumpet74

    beartrumpet74 Pianissimo User

    Jan 17, 2006
    I'm from Maine, and now live in Kentucky. When I moved down here I was SHOCKED !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! by the whole marching band thing. We had a Jazz band, two actually, a concert band, an orchestra, and a chorus. This was augmented by lots of brass quintets, and small chamber groups. This was all in a high school with only 450 people!
    The marching band thing is the BIGGEST complaint I receive from parents and young players in lessons I teach. THEY HATE IT!!!! Largely for the reasons Dave mentioned. Can any of you band directors explain to me a LOGICAL reason for why marching band should even be a part of school band programs, and don't say visiblity with the public, or if I do marching band it keeps the school happy, and I can keep my program.
    For some reason I could never understand how dressing up in a uniform, playing really "interesting" arrangments of popular songs, or worse, a bastardized version of a classic work, and going to competitions every week helps a young person learn about music. If it's discipline, hard work, and team work you are trying to teach with this than all I can say is ......."how misguided"
    OK sorry for hijacking your thread to rant about marching band, but it really really really really really really really really ticks me off.
    Have a good day, and forgive my rant, the coffee isn't working today!
  4. Solar Bell

    Solar Bell Moderator Staff Member

    May 11, 2005
    Metro Detroit


    You said it all!

  5. bandman

    bandman Forte User

    Oct 16, 2004
    Lafayette, LA, USA
    I realize about marching band, and I could go on for days on that topic. Some love it, but most would not do it if possible. I teach in a middle school, and was really looking at those numbers more than high school. My high school research will come later.

    An interesting question though related to the high school. I wonder what the difference is in retention 5-12 between band vs. orchestra? There is no marching string band! I wonder if they hold more students than we do in the band world?
  6. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

    Jan 12, 2005
    Northern New York
    Up here, our school is around 450, k-12. I have 3 concert bands, a jazz ensemble, and marching band during the summer. We also have a small chamber concert coing at the end of this year. One of THE biggest factors I get when kids say they are gpoing to quit is the time factor. Not a job because M.B. is killing their summer, but study hall/homework/schedule conflicts. i have parents who write notes lile this: "Please allow so-and-so to wuit band because he/she is failing x subject(s)". OR, at the beginning of 7th grade, the kids get cold feet about the workload they anticipate. I tell them to hang in there, it's do-able, and guess what? they do, for the most part, and the MAJORITY of the TOP honor roll kids are consistently band kids.

    The whole marching band thing: Well, Matt, I guess some directors do let things get out of perspective, and that may be the whole issue (or at least address a significant portion of it). The good things I find about marching band:
    1. The kids are actually playing their horns 3-4 times a week during the summer. Guess what? NO SUMMER CHOPS IN SEPTEMBER!
    2. I get contact with kids I never get contact with during the year, because they are not in band. (front line people, color guard members).
    3. I get to see my students in a different light and have built some very positive relationships based on trust with those kids.
    4. My students love it...they would start in September if I let them.
    5. Sportsmanship. Some of the kids do not compete in team sports, and never will. They learn how to deal with winning and losing graciously.
    6. Physical coordination and concentration skills. Ever try to make your body do multiple things at once while your mind is doing something completely different?
    7. MUSICAL THOUGHT. They have to MEMORIZE the music. This is, I think, one of the top 2 benefits. (But I didn't think of it until number 7, so there it is). Yes, Shrek tunes are not musically great. Well, I'll give you that. I heard some group do Ride a Horse Save a Cowboy last summer. Not really great music. So pick music that has some redeeming quality...Blood Sweat and Tears or Earth Wind and Fire. You can maybe get kids to actually listen to those bands and have a sense of tightness (EWF) and solid funk grooving and some good experience with the beginnings of fusion. Pick charts that challenge them or offer things they don't get in concert or jazz.

    When I was in marching band, I hated it. I hated it because the music was dumb and the routine (drill) was lame. I marched in Drum Corps and I loved it.

    Sorry, Bandman....I really wanted to address that and put that info out in the open rather than in a confidential PM.

    My retention numbers are not as great as yours. If you would not mind sharing, I'd like to know what it is you're doing to maintain that high a rate of retention. As I said...up here, sports seem to rule, and study halls seem to be the only out for kids who THINK they can't handle it.
  7. bandman

    bandman Forte User

    Oct 16, 2004
    Lafayette, LA, USA
    I have nothing against the marching band as long as it is kept in musical perspective. I also think that the shows they do should be for the enjoyment of the students doing the show, as well as for the entertainment value of the audience we present our shows to at different events.

    I also marched with a major corps. I loved drum corps because it took this little boy and turned him into a man. It was also a chance to be around people who were as driven for perfection as I was, and we did get to play some great charts. Corps and marching band are two totally different things in my book, and I know that statement makes no sense at all unless you lived through a corps experience.

    My retention rate is still a mystery to me. I treat the kids like people, always showing them great respect. I call them Mr. ____ and Ms. ___ and I answer their questions yes ma'am/no Ma'am and yes sir/no sir. I show them the same respect as people that I expect them to show me, but I never forget that the respect I get from them needs to be earned – it's not just given to me because I happen to be an adult.

    My room is the hang out for many students; even quite a few who are not in band this year, but have chosen to join us for next year. I make my room a refuge from the normal parts of the school – a place where kids can come to be kids.

    After school hours I go to dance recitals, piano recitals and all kinds of sporting events in which my students participate. I show them that I want to be part of their lives – not just their band director.

    During class we laugh at things that are funny, and pray for each other when times are tough. We show support of those who are not talented, and marvel at those who excel.

    We do not have chairs in any section, instead we make certain that every student gets to play a first, second or third part on every performance (this causes them to help each other, and takes away that stigma of the last chair player).

    I don’t know how I keep my students – nothing magical, that’s for sure. I just try to make my room a place the kids want to be. I try to be a listener for them when they need personal support, and a guy who loves to give and get hugs and high 5’s as I walk down the hall.

    A couple of weeks ago after they did very well at a contest in Florida one of my students asked me, “Do you know we did this for you?†I just looked at him and responded, “Do you know I did this for all of you?†We then spent the day riding roller coasters together with me being the biggest kid in the bunch.

    Life is good when you can be around people who you really want to be around. I love my students and I just like spending time with them, musically or non-musically, it doesn’t matter. I’m now coaching a softball team – I feel the same way about those kids. We're not doing very well but they have all said they want me to be their coach again next season because they are having fun!
  8. FreshBrewed

    FreshBrewed Mezzo Piano User

    Nov 11, 2003
    Houston, TX

    I'm from the Texas coast and keep in contact with several of my band director buddies from college. I made it a point to get some numbers from them. The few who teach at smaller schools have about a 60% retention rate while those at the larger schools have about an 80% retention rate. This variation in retention seems to stem from the fact that smaller schools tend to have kids who are "needed" in more activities but must eventually make a decision that helps them prepare for their future. The larger schools don't run into this problem just because the student population is so large.

    As for my high school band, back in the late 80's/early 90's we were a top 5 concert and marching band in Texas. I liked them both and learned from them both.
  9. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

    Jan 12, 2005
    Northern New York
    Thanks for the reply, bandman. My problems seem to be morelike what freshbrewed is mentioning...small, rural school, all the kids are really involved in many, many things. The ones who can manage that are the ones who stick it out.
  10. cornetguy

    cornetguy Mezzo Forte User

    Sep 12, 2005
    Saint Paul, MN
    one thing that i see as a substitute teacher that probably also has something to do with it is the kids don't have the self discipline to practice. the ones that do take the horn out of the box i suspect play at the pieces or lesson book material not really practice. now maybe it is just the nature of the gig, but i find that self discipline and self control are the biggest weaknesses of the kids today and eventually they find that they can't keep up and quit.

    you know after i play through a piece to see were the group is on it and then say now its time to get to work, they don't get it they think it was pretty decent and i can fill several yellow pages on what they can improve on. (personal standards are also...)

    i am sure that is all connected

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