If you want to grow music in your school, improve numbers in ensembles and create the right culture in your school, then the first day of term and the first week are crucial.
I can’t wait to get the new year underway and meet all of the new students in my schools. We start in year 9 but I also get to work in the First & Middle Schools that are part of our academy. What excites me the most is that I know there are boys and girls out there that will start learning an instrument for the first time. I see it every year. At the age of 13 I see boys & girls pick up clarinets & saxophones for the first time and start playing and that never gets boring!
What also excites me is the thought of that first choir rehearsal where loads of students will skip lunch and turn up to see what it’s all about – and then keep coming. Over the last 13 years I have really refined this start of term process and so I want to share with you some of the things I do in the hope that they might help. If music isn’t in a great place at your school or hanging on in there amidst all the cuts, then it is crucial that you have an even bigger and better year. Please let me know if you try any of these things for the first time and I hope that they help!
1. Make sure if there is an assembly to the new year group you are there and speak in it. Turn up and ask to talk about music. Talk with passion and then invite students to what I mention below. Don’t leave it to the sports coaches and the head of year, get in the mix. If you don’t ask it won’t happen!
2. Invite new students to a lunchtime gathering in the music room to find out about music. Buy sweets and chocolate and make them feel special. Have some existing music students there to sign them up and get them excited – they will feel special too.
3. In the first few days of term be as present as possible. I wander round the playground and canteen at break and lunch so that students can ask me questions. Go to them!
4. Have a welcome meeting for all students and parents. I do it at 17.30 on day two of term. Get in there as early as you can.
5. Make sure you have music playing at the start of the first main whole school assembly. It is exciting and inspiring.
6. Tidy the music room before term starts. Hopefully you will have an inset day like me!
7. Start rehearsals on Day 1. Not the following week to ease back in. Get things moving ASAP!
8. Use social media and engage your new audience of parents and students from Day 1.
9. Make sure you email home all the info parents need to get lessons sorted. Make sure they also know when all rehearsals happen. But that can also be said in that music meeting of course.
10. Use your older students to help you out and engage with the new younger students.
The key thing is to start as you mean to go on. I know that there are some really tough situations out there and music is being cut in some schools. You may feel like you are hanging in there, but trust me, you can turn things around. Making music a valuable part of school life can be tough and can take time. So you have to start now. Every one of the points above as help me to improve numbers in music both in and out of the classroom. Along with a number of other features of my department, this has made music a solid part of the school and it is growing every year. It isn’t easy and I have faced some tough times. But consistency, forward planning and passion have really helped. So give something above a try and wait for the impact!
I am so excited to get back to work. Daunted. Yes. Nervous. A bit. But mostly excited. I have a few years under my belt now I guess, but I am still always thinking of how I can grow music.
I hope the start of term goes well. Keep in touch and do follow my blog so you receive all my updates. There are a few blogs that may help alongside this blog so please do have a read.