Thursday, June 19, 2014

Recruiting Students

In a recent conversation with a colleague, the topic of student recruitment was raised. As we talked about the necessity and challenges of recruiting quality students to our college programs, I began to realize that the challenge is much the same for a private teacher as it is for the college music department. As I've continued to reflect on this topic, these are a few key factors that came to my mind.

  • Visibility is essential. In order to draw students, they must know where we are and what we have to offer. A teacher or music department that does not have an active performing and/or lecturing schedule is certain to fall away into obscurity. What does this look like? In addition to recital appearances, the teacher should also actively participate in adjudication and master classes as a clinician whenever possible. Visibility is further enhanced through a powerful presence on social media outlets. Hosting various workshops, festivals, and group instruction opportunities can also put a music department on the radar of potential students.
  • Know your limitations! No teacher is strong in every area of musical instruction. Know where your strengths lie and focus on recruiting those students. A small music department with strengths in musical theater, accompanying, and classical performance should not focus their recruitment efforts on jazz players. The students will be disappointed, the faculty will not shine, and a negative reputation for the institution will result. Focus on what you know best and do that with excellence!
  • Don't ignore the community's impact. Some of the best marketing around comes by word of mouth. Look for opportunities to involve the local community in your music making and reap the benefit of positive feelings about your program. Music departments might host a community choir or theater group. To reach families with young children, a school could offer quality musical instruction at a reasonable price through a community music school. The private teacher can be an active participant in their local chapter of MTNA and participate in local amateur activities while establishing themselves as a gifted professional. Additionally, the private teacher might provide short seminars through a local arts council. Interactions of this type can often lead to greater involvement in the future.
  • Foster a sense of stability. If a private teacher wants to recruit a number of new students, families must sense that you are investing in the long-term development of the students. You have to put down some roots in the community. Music departments must make strides to eliminate constant faculty turn over. What serious student in their right mind would plan to attend a school where there is a high probability that they will have two or three different master teachers over the course of their collegiate career? That's the Catch-22 in higher education. Many small schools want to develop greater draw and retention among music majors, but they are unwilling to invest the finances to permit qualified, passionate faculty to make a long-term investment in the department necessary to build the program.
What other actions that lead to successful student recruitment and retention come to your mind? What has been most effective in your personal studio or college music department? What challenges have you faced? I'd love to hear about it all in the comments below.