Boosters share ideas for reaching out to new parents and helping them become valuable contributors to the marching band family.
At Kingston (New York) High School, rehearsal pickup time is prime time for the Tiger Marching Band booster board to greet parents who are new to the activity.
“While parents are waiting for their kids, we walk through the parking lot with a little cart that has all the marching band forms and information sheets,” says Stacie Kremper, band booster president. “We go right up to the car windows and introduce ourselves, answer any questions the parents might have, and make sure they have all the information they need.”
The board members started the parking lot “meet and greet” last fall after brainstorming ideas to make new parents feel welcome and encourage them to take active roles in the booster club.
Though the group used an e-mail blast system, Facebook, and a website to inform students and parents, many individuals said they weren’t receiving information about volunteer opportunities and band activities.
The issue is faced by booster organizations everywhere: How do you get the word out to parents and convince them to get involved?
“It’s an ongoing process,” says Sam Williams, president of the Northwestern High School Band Boosters in Rock Hill, South Carolina. “One of the things that is working for us right now is an outreach program started by our band directors.”
Northwestern’s band directors regularly visit the two middle schools that feed students into the high school.
“Our directors spend time on the middle school campuses and make sure the 8th grade students are familiar with our program,” Williams explains. “We also reach out to the parents—we try to include them as early as possible.”
One of the most successful ways the Northwestern band reaches out to new students and parents is its annual Middle School Band Night.
The event’s goal is to encourage 8th grade students to continue pursuing music in high school—and inspire their parents to come out and support the marching band program.
“During the fall, we invite the 8th grade students to perform with our band at a football game; we also invite their parents to join us,” Williams says. “During the 3rd quarter, we all take a break from the game, serve pizza and drinks, and socialize with the new parents. It’s a great opportunity to answer questions about our marching band program and encourage new parents to get involved.”
At Copper Hills High School in West Jordan, Utah, the band boosters connect new parents with existing volunteers.
“We found that the same core group of volunteers seemed to be handling most of the responsibilities, and we were concerned that no one would be able to take the place of the parents who were leaving when their kids graduated,” says Michelle Moulton, booster president. “So last fall, we changed up our program to encourage more parents to participate.”
The Copper Hills booster board created new committees and sub-committees. Wherever possible, the board looked for ways to break down responsibilities into smaller tasks or single events.
“Our band director strongly encourages all parents to sign up for at least one show or parade,” Moulton explains, noting that this support from the top has helped tremendously. “Many parents will sign up for one show, and after they realize how much it helps and how easy it can be, they will sign up for future events.”
Shadowing Experienced Volunteers
Veteran booster parents are always on hand at Copper Hills to help newcomers learn what is expected. “We invite new volunteers to rehearsals to learn from more experienced volunteers,” Moulton says. “For example, our committee chairperson for our field crew will show a new parent how to handle and set up a specific piece of equipment, and our parents can ‘rehearse’ at field show practices.”
The intent is to alleviate any fears a new parent might have that they will “mess up” and impact the marching band’s score or performance.
The students are always willing to help, too, Moulton says, and seeing that appreciation from the kids themselves goes a long way in encouraging repeat volunteers.
Thanks and Respect
Showing gratitude and respect for all levels of participation seems to be one of the best ways to ensure that new volunteers continue to participate, according to veteran booster board members. “We’ve learned that our parents respond best to guidance from veterans that comes with respect,” Moulton says. “In the past, the situation was, ‘Here’s your job. Now go do it.’ We didn’t have a lot of training or follow-up.”
At Northwestern High School, the booster board now sends personal welcome letters to all incoming freshmen parents. “It’s a personal invitation from a booster board member to come to our orientation,” Williams says. “We hope that a personal connection will encourage more involvement.”
Whether communication takes place at new parent orientations, special events, or simple encounters in the parking lot, these more frequent and friendly interactions lead to better participation. “Most new parents are like deer in the headlights,” Kremper says. “When someone reaches out to them and says, ‘We’ve been where you are,’ they begin to relax. And many of them are all in.”