How to run an instrumental demo/recruitment night
One aspect of a music program that I have always felt distinguishes a good program from a truly great one is the number of extra-curricular opportunities that it offers. While the mainstream classroom curriculum is deserving of much of our attention and is the best way to offer music to the widest range of students, you still need to consider what breadth of opportunities your school's music program offers. Do you offer instrumental music tuition? Ensembles? Elective classes?
If your school does not currently offer any of these options (but you would like it to) then figuring out how to get started can be daunting! Read on for some ideas on launching an instrumental music program at your school.
What are you hoping to achieve?
Have a think about why you are holding a recruitment night and the kind of program you are hoping to build - is there something already in place or are you building something from scratch?
What instruments and ensembles are you hoping to offer and how soon will your program start?
Once you have worked out the answers to these questions, you can tailor an information night using the ideas below.
How to run an instrumental demo night
Open with a concert band/string group/orchestra performance - if you don't yet have your own ensemble program, then make contact with other schools in your area and offer a free and easy performance opportunity. If you are a primary school, then making contact with your local high school can be a good way of building connections between your schools and can help them strengthen high school enrolments.
As the face of my school's music program, I like to give a short speech on the importance of music education. I know I'm preaching to the choir (no pun intended) but you need to convince parents that this is something worth being separated from their hard-earned dollars for.
Provide them with some selected facts, statistics and quotes from various research studies showing the benefits of instrumental music education on other areas of learning, on emotional engagement, on school attendance, on general cognitive development, you name it!
(here are some examples)
A two-year Swiss study involved 1,200 children in 50 schools. They were taken from regular classes for three one-hour music classes per week. At the end of the experiment, these students were better at languages, learned to read more easily, had better social relations, demonstrated more enjoyment in school, and had a lower stress level than those who remained in regular classes.  There are many studies that show similar outcomes (source)
This excellent list of statistics
Individual instrument demos
Get your funny, personable and passionate friends to help give some instrument demonstrations. Build a positive and humourous atmosphere. My favourite demo night I've ever attended was one where the first demonstrater did their presentation like a sales pitch, then the second presenter got up and said "that's all rubbish, you don't want to play the clarinet, you want to play the OBOE!" and so on and so forth. The presentations became increasingly ridiculous but the parents and students were laughing along and were super engaged.
Then - most importantly - GIVE THE KIDS A CHANCE TO TRY
Let them pick up the instruments (guided by your experts) and give them a go. This is how I fell in love with the French horn (had never heard of one before that night) and it has shaped my whole career, study pathway and friendships since then.
Have a clear, concise info sheet
This needs to lay out
- lesson structure (how many per term, are they weekly, for a half hour? etc.)
- Instrument hire & purchase options
- how and where to sign up
I'd love to hear about your instrumental programs and how you go about recruiting students. Leave your thoughts in the comments below!