Attrition is a concern in any program. Every band director continually develops new ways to engage students and encourage them to continue their studies in music and be a part of the band. However, a growing concern for everyone is how the school closures during the COVID pandemic are going to affect our programs.
In a recent conversation with Eric Bachmann, award-winning band director at Emerson Middle School in Niles, Illinois, I discovered how much more challenging overcoming attrition has become since bands have been forced to move to an online setting. Our conversation made me think about how great an impact this could have on the entire band community. If the attrition rate among middle school bands, especially in beginning band, rises significantly this fall, the loss will have a trickle-up affect on all levels for years to come.
In my last interview with Mickey Smith, Jr., band director at Maplewood Middle School in Sulphur, Louisiana and winner of the 2020 Grammy Music Educator Award, we discussed the topic briefly and Mickey had some insightful thoughts on the subject. After the interview, I asked him if he would be willing to be part of a panel discussion on the issue of attrition. His response was, "Of course!"
I also asked Susann Blair-Ewing to join us for the conversation. Susann has a tremendously successful band program at Ann Simpson Davis Middle School in Dublin, Ohio. Susann is also serving as president of the American School Band Director Association, an organization dedicated to the promotion, enhancement and preservation of quality school band programs through leadership and fellowship of exemplary band directors (not to mention she is also the director the largest Taiko Ensemble in North America!).
This panel discussion not only offers ideas for overcoming attrition in a post-COVID environment, it also offers ideas and strategies to engage your students, build relationships, and overcome attrition for years to come.
I want to thank Mickey, Susann, and Eric for taking the time to talk and offer their advice on this critical topic!