Junior High Band
Program Survival Tips


Recruitment is the lifeblood of a band program. One of the best recruitment systems I observed was in Ferron, Utah. This is how band director Dennis Bacon describes it:

"We spent a couple of weeks, went into each 6th-grade class each day, spent time allowing every student to hold and try to play each instrument, talked about good balance, instrumentation needed etc., asked students to select three instruments of choice rather than [just] one, and then had big evening parent meetings where we presented the whole program up through high school and invited [two music stores] to come to sell rentals. The whole approach was not IF you were going to play in the band, but WHAT INSTRUMENT you were going to play. We had great support from the [elementary schools] because of the school board support, and also because we had the 6th-grade teachers convinced that if we got all their students in band, it meant a half hour prep time for them every day."

In that district there were two junior high schools with a total enrollment of 450 students - 425 were in the band.

My teaching schedule was such that I couldn't visit our six elementary feeder schools on a regular basis. A week or two before registration we used to take two days, go to three schools each day and put on a 45-minute concert at each school. That gave us enough time to demonstrate the instruments and have the 9th-grade band and Jazz Band perform three or four numbers each. Between the second and third concerts we would go to the mall for lunch. Even though it wasn't ideal, it worked well and it was the highlight of the year for my students.

One year I had the recruitment tour all set up and the principal told us at the last moment that we couldn't go. He was proud of the band program but not so proud of the orchestra program. He couldn't let the band go and not let the orchestra go, so he decided to not let either of us go. It was very disappointing for my students and I was worried it would affect registration adversely. Fortunately, the program was already quite successful and that success kept the ball rolling.

Eventually the transportation cost to send the band, orchestra (new principal), choir, drama, and foreign language programs to each elementary school became prohibitive. It was cheaper to bus the elementary students to the junior high and put on one program. We each had fifteen minutes to convince the elementary students to sign up for our class. It was far from ideal and much less successful than the concert tour. Fortunately for me, I only had to do it that way two or three years before I retired and again the success of the band program seemed to carry it through those years. Since then the program has dwindled and I blame the very abbreviated recruitment process for most of the decline.

Video Disclaimer

The attached videos are not perfect examples of how each tune should be played. They are recordings of junior high students, some of whom have had their instruments for only a few months. Also, they are not professional recordings. They were taken by band parents using home equipment and naturally focusing on their own children.

I include them for two reasons: (1) To give you an idea of what the arrangements are like, and (2) To illustrate the kind of performance you can expect from your junior high students.