6 Ways to Use a Parade to Grow Your Music Program
Are you dreading another boring local parade? Use this tip to make it more exciting for your students and more delightful for your community. Most importantly, it can help you grow your music program in six different ways! This idea comes from my time as a member of the Marching Illini under director Gary Smith.
How It’s Done
“Hey what?” we hollered.
“It’s time to meet the crowd!”
At this point we would cheer, break out of our parade ranks, and head immediately to the nearest curb. We would smile broadly, shake hands with the grownups, pose for pics with the kids, and thank the crowd for coming out to see us.
— Marching Illini (@MarchingIllini) November 26, 2015
It invariably took the crowd completely by surprise. When you attend a parade, you don’t often expect a marching band to stop what they’re doing, come over, and interact with you. But that’s what we did. That element of surprise is what left the crowd delighted. And we know that band people are the best people, so the students were always polite, kind, and represented the University with pride. A whistle from the drum major called us back into parade block, where all 350 of us snapped to attention, shouting, “Go!” It was just one more opportunity to impress those spectators. And we continued down the parade route, usually playing right away as we stepped off. That simple act, performed a few times over the course of the parade route, left a big impression with people who attended the parade that day.
Make That Parade Work For You: Music Education Advocacy
There’s no reason a high school program couldn’t use this idea as well. Think about what it might do for your recruiting! Those little kids sitting on the curb watching you go by with awe in their eyes? They are the band students of the future. A smile and handshake from a student in full uniform will leave a lasting positive impression. I’d bet that if you surveyed the kids along that parade route before and after that parade, the number of kids who said they wanted to be in that band when they grow up would be significantly higher.
Captivate the Community
If a student makes their kid smile, I guarantee her parents will love your band forever. If that student lets that child hold his horn for a picture, you’ll leave everybody on the block delighted. Your marching band will change from a mass parade unit to individual students personally demonstrating the very best benefits of music education.
All Politics is Local
Think about the other folks you’ll find along the parade route: voters. The streets are literally lined with community members who are likely to vote the next time there’s a funding referendum for the school district. If they see your marching band and other ensembles out in the community performing and delighting audiences, they’ll feel like their tax dollars are well spent. Even if they don’t have a child in school, and even if they’re not quite sure why they like you so much, they’ll be that much more likely to vote your way.
Imagine all the social media posts popping up as your band goes by: Instagram selfies with band members, Vines, Periscopes, and Snapchats filled with horn flashes and your school colors. You can’t buy that kind of coverage and goodwill! And if the local paper or news crew has cameras on the scene, they’ll find your performance irresistible.
Once you develop a reputation for leaving crowds delighted, people start to take notice. You’ll get plenty of positive attention. That just might help you get more donations both from independent donors and from local businesses who would love to be associated with the positive vibes your ensemble puts out and with changing the lives of the students in your program.
Want to step it up a bit? Add a standstill performance at the end of the parade route. It’s a little extra community service while you’re still there in full uniform, and I’ll bet you could play virtually anything in your current repertoire and leave even more folks enchanted.
Your next parade doesn’t have to be a painfully boring, compulsory event to be endured. Make parades work for you by using them to grow your program by recruiting prospective students, advocating for music education with local voters, and sowing goodwill in your community.
We had a lot of fun “meeting the crowd” at tonight’s parade! I hope someone got a better video of it than I did. https://t.co/Hak9gdQE3R
— Manteca HS Band (@Mantecaband) December 6, 2015
@MktgMusicEd everyone loved it! Received lots of compliments!
— Anthony Dahl (@tromboneuop) December 7, 2015