Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 3

Contributed by Don Gunderson

Jr. High/Middle School kids need to see the face of the High School director frequently. Visit, guest conduct on a concert, clinic the festival music. Invite the JH/MS director to guest conduct. Make it a “continuous” program where the students expected to “automatically” continue until graduation. It is a 6 year program.

The upper level students need to have some experiences the younger musicians don’t get.  Save some activities until HS.

Invite the  students onto the HS campus frequently throughout the year (Band Night at a FB game, pre-festival concert, combined concerts, etc.) . This is something the “academic” classes are unable to do in terms of recruiting.

Make the councilors aware of ALL the advantages that kids receive by being part of a quality music program. Collect data re: grade point averages, students in AP classes, quality colleges eager to recruit (and financially support) “band kids” and other distinguishing factors. Point to successful alumni of your program – and NOT just professional musicians, but others who carried their music experiences into other fields.

You must promote your own program. No one else will.

Read Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 1.
Read Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 2.

Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 2

Contributed by Orrin Cross

In 1973 I came to a school with no music program, little District money and no parental support. We had some old instruments. I approached this problem by making the music students visible to everyone. I advertised that we would have a marching band and march at football games. The first year I had some students marching who didn’t play an instrument, using rag-a-tag old uniforms and musical instruments, many of which barely worked. I opened the band room doors before school, at lunch, and after school, even finding some old athletic lockers we put in the band room. This was the place for my students. It was home away from home – a safe haven and our “special place.” I ended up 35 in the marching band that first year. They received publicity in the local newspaper, acknowledgement by the student body, and support from parents and the school board. That was 38 years ago. Each year the program grew: adding a jazz band, symphonic band, wind ensemble, and many other ensembles. That program now has 3 concert type bands, two jazz bands, and a marching band of over 200. That band has played at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, in London, and this year in Rome. Needless to say they have the full support of the community, school board, parents, and the school.

It is OK to start small, make it matter to the students, and watch it grow. It’s worth it.

Read Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 1.
Read Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 3.

Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 1

Contributions by Dr. David Betancourt and Peter Fournier

Each year around this time, as we are neck deep in Festivals across the state, we realize that you also are neck deep – in festivals, performances, exams, and prepping for your next school year.  Recruitment is a vital part of your prep each year and programs falter and fail without proper investment in recruitment.  We thought it might be helpful to get some advice on recruiting for your music program from experienced music educators – the people who are adjudicating for you at our festivals. We’ve compiled these thoughts and will offer a short blog series over the next few weeks.

  • Collaborate and work with your sister schools and across the grades
    • Start in the fall with inviting the middle school band to attend a home football game at the local or home stadium. Late Oct./Nov. may be the best time for the high school to perform their field show in a special performance for them at half time. Prior to the start of the game or following the field show, the middle school band joins the high school playing the “Fight Song” and/or pep piece for the parents, administrators , etc
    • Take a few student leaders to the JHS and show the video of their performance, followed up later in December (before they start signing up for their HS courses) and have the high school students talk about the band camp, the field show, travel opportunities, performing while marching down Main St. at Disneyland, in parades, and often at various community festivals.
  • Organize concerts between elementary, middle school, and high schools in your district
    • Invite the middle school students to visit your campus by inviting them to perform at your pre-festival concert, spring concert, or host an ensemble or solo festival.
    • If your high school has an orientation assembly, make sure to take the Jazz Ensemble and small ensemble to talk to and play for all the incoming 8th graders.
  • Guest conduct each other’s bands (within your district)
  • Switch roles for a day (with admin permission)

Watch our blog for additional recruiting suggestions from additional outstanding music professionals.

Read Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 2.
Read Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 3.

My Musical Inspiration…

Not to get too mushy or maudlin, but I just returned from the CASMEC conference in San Jose and I’m currently overflowing with inspiration.  So, what could be inspiring about standing at a booth all day in the exhibit hall?  Plain and simple, it’s just you…the band, orchestra, and choir teacher.

“I’m just here to learn something I didn’t know before,” one longtime choral director shared with us.  After 30 years of teaching music, he hasn’t lost the desire to learn something new.

“Two of my students earned spots in All-State ensembles, but the district wouldn’t help with their expenses to get here.  So, I funded them myself on the “easy payment plan.”  And I’m their teacher – someone should care enough to come support them.”  This is from someone who clearly sees her career as a calling, not just a paycheck.

“I inherited a ‘winning’ program and my students are bent on winning.  But I’m concerned that this is what they think music is all about.  I’m more interested in teaching them about all aspects of music and challenging them, not just promoting trophy hunts.”

“I ask myself ‘what am I doing here?’-  I want to teach music that appreciates and speaks to my students’ culture.  Most of my students won’t go on to be music majors, but teaching music is about more than just music.” 

“My students never get a chance to leave our town.  I want to show them that there is a great big world out there and they should open their minds to it.”

After twenty-plus years, the stories never end. I’m touched by the thoughtful questions many of you ask of yourselves – how can I do this better?  How can I serve my students? Is it any wonder that we feel motivated to partner with the hardest working teachers on school campuses?

May I simply say – music matters!   And what you, a music teacher, do also matters.  It matters a great deal.


Pardon me, I’m new at this. Where do I start?

Everyone has to start somewhere so pat yourself on the back for taking the first step in arranging a festival for your band, orchestra or choir!

We hear from newbie directors quite a bit who want to stick their toes in the “festival waters” and need a little extra hand-holding to get there.  And we’re happy to hold that hand!  How about some tips to get the ball rolling?

  1. Consult the school calendar – what dates are available?  Check on testing dates, prom or other important school activities, plus other school trips that may or may not be on the calendar.  (This means you have to talk to other “trip takers.”)
  2. Talk to administration. Make your case and find out what is needed for approval.  Make them be specific so you can take all the proper steps.
  3. Decide on the trip type. Are your students ready for an overnight trip or should your first venture be an all-in-one-day trip? Do you have parental support or a brilliant fundraising idea?  You know your students – are they ready and can they support an overnight trip?
  4. Know where you are headed. If this is an overnight trip, you should ask for a specific itinerary.  If this is a day trip, the financials are a little easier, but you will need to add your bus costs to the whole package. Make sure this is a trip that your students WANT to take.
  5. Talk to your students EARLY. Tell them (and boosters, parents, school administration) that you’d like to take the next step with your ensemble by taking them to a music festival with judges.  Point out that they will have the opportunity to perform in a new hall for a new audience.  And mention the chance this offers students to see and hear other student performances.  Be sure to lay out your musical expectations to your students!
  6. Get a handle on the financials. Find out all the costs – we can help with that.  And determine the due dates.   This will really help with your fundraising plans.   It’s always best to get some kind of early financial commitment from parents, so give them a schedule of due dates.  We strongly suggest that you ask for a modest deposit from parents.
  7. Book your bus. Does your district require that you book the bus from an approved list? Acquaint yourself with laws regarding how many hours a driver can be on duty. We can provide a bus quote, but keep us in the loop about your district requirements.
  8. Fundraising – You will likely need to plan some type of fundraising to make the trip happen. You’re better off to over-estimate your costs, just to prepare for the unforeseen.  There are countless numbers of ways to raise funds.  Brainstorm with your boosters or exchange ideas with your district colleagues.
  9. Deadlines are the name of the game! Make note of payment schedule and allow your students’ families plenty of time before that due date to get their money to you.  You can make decisions about the trip once you have an idea of who exactly is coming, i.e. instrumentation and seating charts, music selection, and rooming lists.
  10. Musical deadlines are also important.  Once you’ve selected your music, give your students musical deadlines to learn the music.  One director made a big chart creating a “race” to learn their music.  Peer pressure is a great musical motivator!
  11. Emphasize grades and enlist support from the other teachers. Using an enrichment opportunity such as performing at a festival can be motivation for teachers and students to encourage performing students to keep up those grades!
  12. Ask questions! Don’t be afraid to ask us questions along the way – we are here to help whether you’re doing a one-day package or custom overnight trip.

Please know that there’s a lot of support for you!  We work with so many directors who are bringing students to an adjudicated festival for the first time.  We’re happy to make this happen for young musicians.  And, there is nothing like a successful experience for your students.  Chances are … it will linger as a wonderful memory of their school days.

Taking Your Students to Festival

Playing music for yourself – there’s nothing like it! But, being part of a performing group is all about feedback – there is no substitute for an audience and its response to your music. The best directors seek opportunities for their fledgling musicians to perform to spectators – not to justify their worth as a director, but rather to better the group’s musical skills, self-confidence, and to hear other student musicians of similar age and ability. Taking a group of music students on the road is an effective way to build your program – lots of work, but oh, the rewards are well worth it. If you are contemplating bringing your group to a festival this season, consider a few tips.

Plan Ahead
Can’t say enough about it. You owe it to your students and their parents to prepare them financially, emotionally, and musically. Involve your parent group and administration in your plans early. Get the word out through newsletters, parent meetings, and good old-fashioned rumor to create some enthusiasm with your music families. Build a website about the trip or leave a detailed message on your office answering machine about your program’s events and the progress being made to put the trip together.

Just Exactly What Am I Getting Into?

Be realistic about your group. Don’t get caught up in an ego exercise by trying to impress parents, colleagues, or administration – if your students aren’t ready for a highly competitive festival, the results may make them feel badly about their abilities and your program. Perhaps your group is in a building year – they need to perform, but are inexperienced. Festival companies often have non-competitive categories that combine a performance showcase with adjudicator’s constructive comments and the chance to discover how the group stands in comparison to similar groups.

From “Hot Cross Buns” to Rachmaninoff, Will They Rise To The Occasion?
Choose appropriate literature …please. Some directors hold fast to the belief that the selection of difficult pieces will positively affect the scoring. The fact is…seeing your students struggle in performance frustrates you and them and does not impress the adjudicator. Learning how to discern your group’s ability and set appropriate goals for your group is what separates the novice from the master!

Deadlines Are Not The Enemy!
Music educators are the hardest working teachers on campus! One choral teacher spent every one of HIS lunch hours for months selling goodies to junior high kids to fund the kind of program that he wanted. Admirable? You bet. Necessary? Not really. You will drive yourself to distraction if you shoulder the entire fundraising effort alone. Delegate the fundraising to helpful booster members, if possible. Make it their mission to creatively raise funds, collect money, and do follow-up for the group. Millions of ideas abound for creative fundraisers- just keep the enthusiasm going with parents and students. Don’t be afraid to set target dates for collecting the funds so you build in ample time to identify the students who need extra time or financial help to get them to the festival.

Musical deadlines are vital. Involve your students in your musical goal-setting. Let them know that doing well matters to you and it should also matter to them. Breaking down the score into “small bites” makes it manageable to learn. After selecting three pieces for festival, one director designed a large chart listing all the student’s names vertically with the selected pieces listed in columns across the top. Dates were set for each student to learn each of the three pieces. Students who didn’t take the responsibility to learn the music were not allowed to go on the trip. Peer pressure is a great musical motivator. It does take some extra time from the director, private teacher, or section leader, but the results are well worth it.

Realize that transportation rules the world!
Order the buses as soon as you have a confirmed date. Understand the rules of the bus company – drivers require a certain number of hours “off” before they can drive you home again. For an overnight trip, don’t forget to budget for a driver’s room, if necessary. Consider heavy traffic, late students, bathroom breaks, and a reasonable warm-up period when planning the call time for your take-off. Always confirm your transportation several days before you will need it.

Festival Etiquette for Young Ladies and Gentlemen
Ensure that your students’ behavior will prompt a welcome back. Model courtesy and interest when hearing other groups. Teach them some basics about festival etiquette.

  • Never enter the auditorium during a performance.
  • Don’t talk during a performance.
  • Listen attentively. You want others to hear you – accord them the same consideration.
  • Remember – you are a representative for your school and your community – act like it!

A festival permits your students to better understand their progress and appropriate musical standards for their age. Evaluate the other performances back in the classroom, not loudly in front of all to hear.

We’ve all seen THOSE groups – running wildly through the facility, speaking loudly during performances, or ignoring other performances completely. All they know is “I’m not at school today.” All the other participants know is “We wish you were.”

After the Festival
Your experience doesn’t end when you get back home. It’s always best to listen to the adjudicator’s tapes before you play them for your group. While all festivals aim to hire the best, occasionally an adjudicator may comment on something that may not be appropriate to your situation. Don’t be afraid to edit.

Use common sense in assessing your group’s performance. Adjudicators hear many groups throughout their careers. Don’t take offense at suggestions or constructive criticism that are offered. Listen, think, and decide if the comment is a valid one, particularly if more than one judge makes the remark.

Should you compare your scores from one festival to another? Every adjudicator brings his or her own opinions and expertise to a festival. Keep in mind that the very best bands, orchestras, and choirs will perform differently from one rehearsal to the next. You can’t discount the variables in location, sound systems, student (and director) fatigue, and excitement.

Finally, the most important lesson you will teach your students about music – have fun! Once all the planning is in place, the details delegated, the chaperones briefed, the students practiced and good to go, all you have left to do is to relish the experience with your kids. Your visible enjoyment of the entire festival speaks volumes to your young musicians. And, after all, isn’t the pure pleasure of making music together what music education should be all about?

Using Your Forum Account Once You Are Registered

Our website offers many different resources for trip planning. Here are a few tips on how to use our website:

  • Make changes to your existing reservation
    • Log in using your username and password in the right orange box
    • Once logged in, click Manage My Account
    • From here you can update your Reservations, your Schools, and your Profile
  • Submit a payment
    • Log in using your username and password in the right orange box
    • Once logged in, click Submit a Payment
    • Fill in the required forms and the amount (please pull this amount from your separate invoice)
    • Enter your credit card information and click PAY
    • You will receive a confirmation from us when your payment is processed
  • Submit your rooming list for overnight trips
    • Log in using your username and password in the right orange box
    • Once logged in, click Manage My Account
    • Under My Reservations, your existing registrations will be listed
    • If your trip requires a rooming list and a hotel has been selected for your group, you will see a button “Rooming List” next to your reservation
    • Click this link and complete fields as necessary
    • Please note that this rooming list may be used as a working template and you can save and return later to submit changes
    • Your rooming list will be locked on your due date and you will need to contact Forum Music Festivals directly to make any additional changes
  • Download useful forms and get answers to your many questions
    • Our FAQ page has a ton of useful information to answer all of your pressing questions

How to Register for a Festival

Thank you for visiting Forum Music Festivals!


Create a new username/password for our website. Either create a new account or request a password reset (just look for the orange box on the right).


  • Log-on with your username and password and go to Festival Registrations.
  • Select your package options from One Day Park Package, Custom Overnight Package, Judges’ Invitational Competition-One Day, Judges’ Invitation Competition-Overnight Package.
  • Select the blue “New Registration” button.
  • Select your festival location.
  • Select your preferred Festival date and click “Next.”
  • Select your activities – choose from various theme parks or make a note of a custom request under Other.
  • If you have not signed in at this point you will be prompted to do so.
  • Insert your total number of students and chaperones (do not include directors in the chaperone count).
  • Would you like us to include meal vouchers at the theme park? Select the box if so.
  • Would you like us to provide a transportation quote or will you be handling your own transportation? Select your option and then click “Next.”
  • If you have registered before, your school should appear on the next page. Click “Edit” and review for up-to-date information.
  • If you have not registered before or need to add a new school click “Create New School.” Once your information is added, select the button next to the school you are registering and click “Next.”
  • Click “Create New Ensemble” and input the accurate information. Click “Create New Ensemble” for each individual ensemble.  Once all of your ensembles are listed, click “Review Registration.”
  • Review all information on this page. Select the box that you have read our FAQ page and agree to all terms. Include any information in the right orange box that will be helpful for us for scheduling.
  • Hit “Click to Register” or we will not receive your registration – IMPORTANT!
  • You will receive a confirmation page with a link to pay your registration fees or to request an invoice. An emailed and post mailed invoice and contract will be forwarded to you.

Five ways to kick-start your mojo!

Whew! Holidays are wonderful, but let’s face it – now the hard work begins: new students coming in, hanging on to seniors (at least mentally), competing with testing, AND preparing for concert and festival season. Here are five tips to help kick-start your own mojo:

  1. Tidy your space. Okay, don’t bail on me now. I admit, I’m an addict to organizational blogs and minimalist entreaties. (Implementing is a lot harder than reading about them). However, de-cluttering your headquarters, even a little bit, helps cast away the heavy “baggage” and moves you full steam ahead.
  2. Step out of the comfort zone. Maybe try out new material, plan new sight-reading exercises, or take a few minutes of fun team-building with your ensemble. Just mix it up a bit is all I’m saying here.
  3. Seek inspiration. Maybe a colleague in your district inspires you. Or maybe listen to your favorite symphonic work that always allows your spirit to soar. Or here’s a good excuse for some binge-watching TV – Amadeus, Mr. Holland’s Opus, Mozart in the JungleMusic of the Heart, Anchors Aweigh – (check out the Hollywood Bowl scene) – whatever inspired you to join this noble profession. So, here’s your permission to find the spot on the sofa and let your muse take over.
  4. Choose an easy start. Select an easy and quick piece for your students to learn. Let them feel victorious right out of the chute in January. Lots of time to add challenging work, and you know it’s coming, but start off the new semester with a big, fat, happy success story.
  5. Add a little self-care to the mix. You’re busy – we get it. But don’t forget to take care of yourself – mentally, emotionally, and physically. It will pay off for you AND for your students. Ideas: cloud-watching, meditation, give yourself a compliment, goof off guilt-free, pet your dog or any dog. You get the idea – easy peasy, but something to give yourself a break.

Happy Holidays from Forum!

Our staff at Forum Music Festivals extends our warmest wishes to you for a very happy holiday, whatever and wherever you are celebrating.   I hope you’ll take some well-deserved time to rest and relax.

We are also taking some time off between Christmas and New Year’s  to spend with family, enjoy way too much rich food, and to gear up for an amazing festival season in 2017.  However,  be assured that we are checking voicemail and emails regularly, so if any questions arise, don’t hesitate to contact us.  We’ll get back to you straight away!

Thank you for your continued support of our company.  And we appreciate all the great and thankless work you do for your students.  We recognize that music teachers are the hardest working teachers on any campus.  We are always honored to be part of your program.  We look forward to seeing you soon in 2017.

Happy Holidays!

Your friends at Forum Music Festivals

What Can An Adjudicated Festival Do For Your Students?

Justifying enrichment opportunities for music students can be a little daunting.   Daunting since the reasons for school festival performances are as numerous and diverse as the young student musicians we hope to serve.

  1. An adjudicated performance offers valuable feedback, just as running a race determines if physical training paid off.  Insightful adjudication goes a long way in uplifting and cultivating student performance potential.
  1. Watching other performances is vital to the music student. The brilliant performances or familiar mistakes of other student ensembles can identify needed steps forward for your own ensemble.
  1. Teamwork is not just for sports. By performing for an objective adjudicator, students learn to appreciate every member of the ensemble.  Working towards a group goal drives students to learn to cooperate, solve problems, and share a sense of achievement.
  1. Music study encourages engagement. An education in the arts can be a major factor for some students to stay in school.  It combines personal and social connections.  And it unites the academic with the artistic.
  1. An adjudicated festival should be a supportive environment. It’s hard to say where else students are going to find a scenario that endorses productive risk-taking and the acceptance of critical assessment.  Think about that.  That whole idea is an awesome life lesson.
  1. Fun! Possibly, the most important lesson that a director can teach – have fun!  The planning is complete, the fundraising’s done, the chaperones are briefed, and the ensembles rehearsed.  All that is left is to relish the experience with your kids.  Your clear delight of the festival experience speaks volumes to your student musicians.  And isn’t the pure pleasure of making music together what music education is all about?

What’s on the Calendar for California Musical Theatre?

Sometimes there are epic years for students of musical theatre. 2017 happens to be one of those years and we’re seeing a bang-up participation of student groups performing at a festival, then heading to the theatre to enjoy a great evening (or matinee) of entertainment.

Let us know if you’re interested in introducing your students to some of Broadway’s best. Group tickets are available and we can customize a festival package to include festival, theatre, and dinner.

Southern California:
Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa

March 21 through April 2 – “Finding Neverland”
April 25 through May 7 – “An American in Paris”
May 30 through June 11 – “The Bodyguard”

Pantages Theatre Hollywood

February 21 through March 12 – “Finding Neverland”
March 22 through April 9 – “An American in Paris”
May 2 through May 21 – “The Bodyguard”

Ahmanson Theatre Los Angeles

April 4 through May 14 – “Into the Woods”
May 16 through June 24 – “Jersey Boys”

Richard & Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center

April 22 – Patti Lupone – “Don’t Monkey with Broadway”


Northern California:

March 14 through August 5 – “Hamilton” – Orpheum Theatre
March 7 through April 2 – “Into the Woods” – Golden Gate Theatre

San Jose

March 25 through April 2 – Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Princess Ida” – Lyric Theatre
April 21 through 30 – “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” – Montgomery Theatre
April 25 through 30 – “The Bodyguard” – Center for the Performing Arts


“All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Music Class”

Remember a few years ago Robert Fulghum’s runaway best seller, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten?  The list included things like “Share Everything,” and “Take a nap every afternoon,” and my personal favorite – “Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.”

The book’s concept was profound and thoughtful.  Recently, I was thinking about it in terms of the music directors that I’ve met through Forum Music Festivals.  So, here’s my take on “All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Music Class.” (A little unwieldy, I know, but you get the point).

  1. A positive attitude is better than talent.
  2. Talent isn’t enough – it also takes hard work.
  3. Failure just means you’ll do better next time.
  4. I can be a “doer”, not just an observer.
  5. Sharps are not hash tags (and they came first.)
  6. Stepping off with your right foot does not make you weird.
  7. Singing a song makes it better.
  8. One more time means one more time.

There are so many more bits of knowledge that wise school music directors collect over a teaching career.  I invite you to share them with us on our Facebook page.


Great moments over 22 years…

We’re launching our 22nd season this year.  Lot of years, lot of directors, lots of kids, and lots of stories.  Middle School students who started with us at age 12 would now be 33 years old.  Yikes!  Some bring their own ensembles to a festival.  It’s a sobering thought, but a very gratifying one.

I remember the director who answered his ringing cell phone while onstage directing his band, then ran down the theatre aisle mid-performance to hand his phone to me.  On the other end was a mom looking for her daughter at the festival.  Wouldn’t you know the daughter’s name was Katie?  There were probably 45 Katie’s at that festival that morning.  Yes, we found Katie.

Then there were directors who arrived at the festival teary-eyed because they were retiring and this was their last outing with their students.  They cared so deeply for their students over a lifetime of teaching.  Forum Festivals played a part of their programs for so many years.  I was honored that we were friends and partners.  I shall never forget them and I think of them quite often.

One school’s entire clarinet section forgot their instruments at home a few years ago.  One adjudicator was on the faculty where the festival was scheduled that morning. “Wait just a minute,” he said and he left the theatre.  He scrambled around in the college band room and found clarinets for most of the section. (Yes, they had their own mouthpieces with them – go figure).

I’ve observed many acts of generosity between music students of different schools. It’s so heartwarming when kids just stand up spontaneously to applaud another school’s performance with no nudging from adults.

Last year, in the Bay Area, we welcomed a wind ensemble with a very talented young oboe player.  He really was quite phenomenal which became more and more apparent during the performance.  No surprise to anyone that he was awarded an Outstanding Student Musician award.   Following awards, the other students emptied the theatre and formed two lines in the lobby (no prompting from the adults). As the oboist left the theatre and walked between his classmates, they broke out in spontaneous applause, clapping him on the back as he passed.  It meant the world to this young musician. He will never forget it and I was thrilled to be there to experience it.

So, on the eve of our 22nd season, I’m pondering the stories along with the music that I’ve been privileged to witness.  Over the past 22 years, we think we’ve seen it all – the good, the bad, and the less-than-graceful.  But most of it has been good – and that is for sure.