Academic journal article Contributions to Music Education

Strategies for the Recruitment and Retention of Band Students in Low Socioeconomic School Districts

Academic journal article Contributions to Music Education

Strategies for the Recruitment and Retention of Band Students in Low Socioeconomic School Districts

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to examine strategies for the recruitment and retention of band students in low socioeconomic status (SES) school districts. Participants included three middle school instrumental music teachers of high participation programs in low socioeconomic school districts, their building administrators, and parents. Eligibility for participation included requirements that (a) 25-30% of the school population consistently participated in the school's instrumental music program and (b) 50% or more of the district's total school district student population was enrolled in the federal National School Lunch Program. Data were collected through interviews and classroom observations with field notes. Results suggest that proactive teacher strategies, culturally relevant ensembles, and student ownership of ensemble processes can aid in the recruitment and retention of students in low SES districts.

Socioeconomic status (SES), as defined by Bornstein and Bradley (2003), is "the relative position of individuals, families, or groups in stratified social systems where some societal values (e.g., occupational prestige, education) are not uniformly distributed" (p. 2). Kozol (1991) argued that SES is an intervening factor that influences learning at all levels and substantiated his thoughts by describing the shocking conditions of children in poverty, and of schools in low SES areas. The almost unbearable learning conditions described by Kozol, in part influenced by the socioeconomic status of the inhabitants of the community, may have direct implications for instrumental music. Monetary investments necessary to participate in an instrumental music program, including obtaining and maintaining an instrument, may be a strain on an already tight budget. Research (Brandstrom & Wiklund, 1996; Corenblum & Marshall, 1998; Klinedinst, 1991; McCarthy, 1980) also suggested that an individual's access to instrumental music education may reflect one's social background, leading to differences in participating populations.

If music educators uphold the belief that every child is entitled to a music education (MENC, 2005), such as an instrumental music education, then it is prudent to address what the research suggests: students from low SES backgrounds may have greater difficulty gaining access to participation in instrumental music programs. An investigation examining instrumental music teachers' recruitment and retention strategies in an instrumental music program in a low SES district, as well as eliciting their suggestions in regards to recruitment and retention, may assist the profession in achieving one of its goals: to provide every student with the opportunity to learn music.

Relevant Literature of SES Research in Instrumental Music Education

McCarthy (1980) examined the influence of individualized and group ensemble instruction and student demographic characteristics on two measures of music reading and program retention over one school year. Participants were urban fifth and sixth grade beginning instrumental music students (N= 1,199) in a northern industrial city. Teachers (N = 10) met with their students once a week for small group or individual practice. Forty-three percent of the subjects were classified as low SES students according to a map that indicated the SES of every neighborhood within the city. McCarthy found that SES was a significant predictor of retention; those students with higher SES tended to participate in instrumental programs longer than those with lower SES.

Klinedinst (1991) examined the ability of selected factors, including SES, academic competency, and musical aptitude, to predict retention of beginning instrumentalists (N = 205) in an upper-middle class district. Over a school year, all classroom music teachers (N = 4) rated their students' potential for success in instrumental music by considering musical achievement and nonperformance indicators such as interest in music. …

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