The school year is winding down, and students must make a crucial decision. They must decide if they will continue in band, or quit band – and as a result, private lessons. Often times the private lesson teacher is the last person to know if a student is quitting band. This is frequently because the student may be uneasy to bring this up in conversation to you, the private teacher, directly. Also, band directors frequently know who is quitting but assume the student has already communicated this to their private teavher. Taking steps now can ensure you have a more accurate picture of who you will be teaching going forward.
Communication is key when it comes to retaining your students. Common reasons to loose students are preference for sports over band, general disinterest in band, desire to take numerous advanced placement courses over band, moving, and obviously graduation.
I send an email to my entire studio at this point of the year, it reads:
I have very much enjoyed teaching your student this year. Going forward if you would like to continue lessons no further action is needed. I will keep your student on my studio roster. If your student is no longer continuing band please let me know.
I know this may seem like you are inviting your students to quit. You are not. Most likely your students have decided this well before you send this email. It is far better to know who you will be losing now and plan accordingly, rather than schedule a time for next year only to find out they have quit band.
When doing this exercise there are always surprises. You are clearly aware your senior students won’t be returning, but some students respond they are quitting that you either feel are talented, or that you enjoy working with a lot.
Once you find this out, there is usually enough time left in the school year to switch their class schedules if you can persuade them to stay in band. Try talking to them in their lesson about the cause for their quitting. If it is a scheduling issue regarding sports or academia many times a solution can be reached. Often times students will just quit band and choose the other activity because they assume there is no solution. Frequently this can be resolved with good communication amongst the parties (students, parents, band directors, and other teacher/coach) and enough lead time to enact a resolution. When bringing this up with your students, do it in a causal way. If they interpret the conversation as aggressive, you may not achieve the desired result.
Once you have a final count of which students will be back, and who will be leaving I make a list of every student by school, and then band class if applicable. From here you can see where you have a lot of students, and where you can expand. You can also see what classes you have more time slots to teach and then can begin looking for new students to fill these slots. It is by far easier to communicate to new students about next year during the school year versus the summer because people check their email much more frequently during school.
I also try to use this time year to get information on who my new beginning students will be. Again, the band directors will be easier to get in touch with now rather than July. Usually, beginner parents are very enthusiastic about band in general, especially lessons. I like to send a mass email out to all incoming sixth grade saxophonists before school is over to see who wants lessons. This way you have a handle on both incoming and outgoing students.
Once you have acquired this information all that is left is to schedule your students. With the headache that is student scheduling you can rest easy knowing your previous work will ensure all your students scheduled are indeed still enrolled in band.