College studio recruitment and retention

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Home Forums Pedagogy Teaching – General: Solutions, Question, Tips College studio recruitment and retention

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 40 total)
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    Dwight Manning

    College applied faculty, what recruiting and retention practices have been productive for your double reed studios?
    Share your tips here.

    Dwight Manning

    248 views since Feb. 10th (4 months ago) but zero replies. College professors, any comments?

    Nancy Duncan

    Maybe you could share your tips to start the ball rolling!
    Nancy (not a college professor)

    Scott Pool

    HA! Everyone’s afraid to share their secrets :)

    As far as recruiting, I’ve had the best luck holding events that bring recruits to campus.

    Retention, well that’s a two-way street. Despite your best efforts, students sometimes just don’t work out. I approach my job always thinking of the costs of tuition current students are paying. With that in mind, I try to give 100% of my efforts to make sure they are getting the best education I can give them with as many extracurricular activities as possible, most of which are certainly not credited in my “load” assignment.
    It’s a ton of work, but helps me sleep at night.

    Dwight Manning

    Scott, thanks for jumping in! My inquiry in this forum is part of a larger study on recruiting and retention, partial findings of which were presented at a College Music Society Regional Conference in March. To continue our dialogue, I’ll share here one of the published studies on recruiting.

    In 1996, researcher Michael Straw studied the perspectives of 117 high school seniors who had participated in Missouri All-State Ensembles. He reported on how they perceived the effectiveness of various recruiting practices on their decision to participate in collegiate music departments. It was deemed likely that these students had experienced the efforts of collegiate music departments to recruit them to their programs. Following are the seven most frequent recruiting practices he found followed by a ranking of the most effective.

    Seven most frequent recruiting practices (ranked most to least)
    Music dept. publications 91%
    Letter from music faculty 82%
    On-campus interview or audition 73%
    Received performance scholarship 68%
    Music dept. visit 65%
    Phone call from faculty 50%
    Private lesson with faculty 37%

    Ranking of seven most effective practices
    1) Received performance scholarship
    2) On-campus interview or audition
    3) Letter from music faculty
    4) Music dept. publications, Music dept. visit, Phone call from faculty, Private lessons (equally distributed in 4th place)

    Are these practices still common today at your institution? Would today’s students respond in similar manner 16 years later?

    -looking forward to reading your comments,

    Scott Pool

    I think I would agree; not much has changed.
    I always poll high school students when they visit and they most always say the most important aspect of their decision will be in the form of scholarship $$. Sad.
    It usually takes a nice chat to get them to see other aspects of their decision-making process that are far more important to their success in college.
    I’m currently teaching at a high school band camp and may ask a few students these very questions to get some informal results for you.

    Bryan Cavitt

    Scott –

    As the father of a graduated applied music major, I appreciate what your feelings are, but the reality is that my son (and many like him) probably wouldn’t be able to study in college at all if it wasn’t for the scholarship $$. I understand all the other factors are important too, but, as my father used to say, it boils down to a dollars and cents decision.

    Bryan Cavitt
    Bassoon Dad

    Christopher Weait

    Given the recent economic environment and the reality that most parents pay the tuition, it would seem logical that recruitment efforts should also be aimed at parents. In both college-level institutions I have taught at recently, I’m aware that there are dedicated sessions for parents during recruitment days. Applied faculty should know what parents are told in those sessions so that their own recruitment efforts are not at odds with the institution’s.

    I’ve always felt that campus visits and a face-to-face meeting with the applied teacher were vital recruitment components. I still believe those are important, but echnology since 1996 (viz. Dr. Manning’s message) has changed a LOT. With Facebook and Twitter, for example, potential students are obviously getting a lot of information from sources other than institutional publications. For example, I wonder how effective it would be if each prospective student were to have a Facebook friend who is a present student.


    Getting to know the music teachers in my area has been essential to successful recruiting. Students often
    rely on their teacher’s recommendation for school visits and auditions as well as the final choice .

    Dale Clark
    Arkansas State University
    Clark Bassoon Reeds

    Dwight Manning

    Thanks to all for the lively dialogue! The question of parental support, particularly related to recruiting undergrads to any institution receiving federal US funds, may be a sensitive matter for applied faculty. When talented students are in high school, university faculty may discuss all aspects of institutional support, academics etc. with a prospective student’s parent(s). However, according to FERPA (aka the Buckley Amendment) once a student is enrolled at an institution of higher education and is no longer a minor, university faculty may not discuss academic or financial matters with parents without previous written permission of that student. This transition may prove challenging for students, families and applied faculty in US colleges.

    -looking forward to reading your thoughts on this topic affecting many IDRS members,

    Christopher Weait

    Dwight, to be clear, this statement in my message “Applied faculty should know what parents are told in those sessions so that their own recruitment efforts are not at odds with the institution’s.” was intended to mean “know what the parents are told” prior to the student entering. All best wishes, Chris

    Nancy Duncan

    My experience with recent cuts in the middle and high school “extracurricular” programs makes me think college staff will have to use many new methods to get and retain students. It may actually be that the pyramid (of many students wanting few places) is actually turning upside down and will reflect few students being courted by many music departments. Our county-wide school system has cut all music programs in the middle and high school level, which means community orchestras, colleges, and semi-professional organizations will have zero recruits coming out of the schools in a decade. A sad story.

    Dwight Manning

    Nancy, you raise a pertinent point. In my experience, applied double reed faculty in the majority of US institutions have struggled for years to recruit and retain students. Only a small minority of institutions enjoy the scenario in which many applicants are vying for a few places. But by and large, this struggling majority has succeeded in recruiting undergrads, even with fewer and fewer high school music programs. According to one estimate in the General Topics section of this forum–How many bassoon students are there?–US institutions are training roughly 7000 bassoon students. Is the college applied studio a valuable end or merely the means to a greater end? How many jobs are available in the international musical community if even one fourth (the annual senior class) of those 7000 bassoonists graduate each year? Perhaps applied faculty do need new methods to attract and serve their students. Do institutions also need to re-examine the music curricula designed to serve students and broader social/artistic needs decades ago?

    -best wishes to all,


    Dwight, you bring up a good point – there aren’t enough jobs for these students. Between orchestras folding, the military bands taking a pop music emphasis, and the public schools cutting music programs, where are these 1750 graduating seniors going every year? I find it incredibly unethical to charge students tens of thousands of dollars in tuition knowing full well they won’t find a job simply because “we need people to fill the ensembles.”

    I think a possible solution to this is to find ways where applied faculty can recruit and teach talented music minors, double majors, and others who love music but want to pursue it avocationally. Not everyone who takes an English class is an English major, why does everyone who takes bassoon lessons or plays in wind ensemble have to be a bassoon major?

    The late Hugh Cooper said that he knew that only the top few students in his studio would be able to feasibly find full-time employment in music and that it was his responsibility to “gently guide” the other students toward other careers and pursuing music avocationally. He said that many of his former students are now doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc, who still enjoy playing the bassoon in the various civic ensembles and appreciate the instruction they received from him. Is there anything so wrong with this scenario? And this is at a school like Michigan where presumably he’d have a very high level of talent from which to choose. I imagine at a smaller school, this scenario is even more viable.

    When I was in graduate school, my bassoon professor suggested I consider getting my education certificate “just in case.” Even though I ended up getting a job in military band, I’m glad that i did that because now if the Army decides to cut bassoon players, I will have another way to feed my children without having to get back on the audition circuit. Is there anything so awful about suggesting to your performance majors – ‘hey, think about staying an extra year and getting an ed degree, or a computer science minor?”

    Thanks for starting up this conversation. It’s one we as a field desperately need to have.

    Christopher Weait

    Dwight, This sentence in your most recent message is possibly the most important one, “Do institutions also need to re-examine the music curricula designed to serve students and broader social/artistic needs decades ago?” Further, I believe Derek’s comment “we need people to fill the ensembles.” reminds us that requirements to fill studios and ensembles often drives the recruitment effort.

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