Every spring, students and parents naturally leave the band program after graduation. Learn ways to keep them coming back.
Every summer, the Carmel (Indiana) High School marching band participates in the annual 4th of July parade associated with the town’s CarmelFest. And every summer, the band’s alumni group—the “Carmel Core”—cheers on its band program.
“Our alumni always sit in the same spot along the parade route,” says Heather Timmons, president of the Carmel High School Band Boosters. “This is their third year gathering to watch the parade together, and the turnout has grown every year.”
The Carmel boosters keep alumni in the loop on happenings such as the parade through an email list and a Facebook page. “We use Facebook as one of our tools to keep families informed of band events, and we created a page just for alumni parents and students,” Timmons says. “We also invite our alumni to sign up for an email list, so we can contact them with band news and let them know about upcoming events.”
One of those events is an annual fundraising occasion called “Community Night: Taste of the Trucks,” which takes place every fall. The Carmel Core—whose motto is “Preserving the Past, Promoting the Present, and Building the Future”—sets up a tent near the gathering of food trucks, and alumni parents and students sell water and iced tea, with the proceeds benefiting the marching band program.
“Near the end of the evening, all of the guests and volunteers—including alumni—are invited into the stadium to watch the band perform that season’s field show,” Timmons says. “As the students perform, our director takes time to explain the thought processes behind each movement. Then, the band performs the show again. It’s a huge hit with the community.”
Alumni from Clovis West High School in Fresno, California, come back every year to participate in a similar event. “The last day of our summer band camp, we have Family Day,” says Mark Standriff, chairperson of the Clovis West instrumental music Parent Board. “Our alumni are very active in coming back for this day.”
Clovis West marching band alumni also come back for football games occasionally, Standriff says, noting that alumni had previously been invited to perform during the pregame show at a designated football game each year. “This was four or five years ago,” he explains. “Our band students would stick around the area, attending Fresno State or participating in one of the DCI groups in the area.”
While efforts to reach out to alumni for events beyond Family Day have not been as active recently, the Clovis West Parent Board has plans to pursue alumni connections. The Parent Board maintains a registry of contact information, including phone numbers, street addresses and email addresses, and plans to start notifying alumni of upcoming events.
“For example, we have an early summer fundraiser that involves an outdoor concert,” Standriff says. “It’s a really lovely evening. We plan to invite our alumni to attend, and we hope to include them in more events as we find our rhythm with alumni outreach.”
The Lake Central (Indiana) Band Boosters also hopes to encourage more alumni involvement in the current band program. “Our alumni outreach program is still in its infancy,” says Heidi Kendall, president of the Lake Central Band Boosters. “We are still taking baby steps, looking for more and more ways to get our alumni parents and students involved.”
Like Carmel and Clovis West, Lake Central has compiled an email list of alumni interested in learning about the band’s activities and recently set up a Facebook page for student alumni. “We’re using the page to invite alumni to performances, such as the Parent Night performance that takes place on the last night of band camp,” Kendall explains. “The goal is to look for additional ways to include alumni, such as reunions and invitations to come back at homecoming.”
Standriff hopes to eventually reach out to former band students and parents through an Alumni Phone-a-Thon, similar to fundraising efforts done by colleges. “This is still in the very early planning stages, but we’ve tossed around the idea of having current students call former students,” he says.
As Timmons has discovered, a personal call from a currently active parent may be just the small gesture an alumni parent needs to stay involved—through time or money—with the band program they supported for so many years. “I have never had an alumni parent turn down my request for help if I take the time to ask them personally,” she says. “Many of them tell me later that they were so glad I asked as they really want to stay involved.”