Once we have recruited and attracted our very best studio students, we should make additional efforts that help retain these students in our studio and in our programs. With some freshmen dropout rates as high as 40%, all of us can do a better job making sure students stay focused, motivated, and on our class rolls.
Below is a bulleted list that may spark some things you do well or allow a new idea to emerge that may help foster a positive studio culture in your studio.
- Foster cooperation instead of competition. Having students help each other rather than highlighting the competitive instincts will help develop a positive atmosphere. Music is extremely competitive but stresses individual accomplishments rather than competing against each other. There is enough competition in the world. That will naturally happen.
- Have studio/master class opportunities. Masterclasses will allow more time for in-depth study than just the individual lesson concepts. Teach important concepts such as literature, instrument history, and pedagogy in a large meeting with all students. Encourage positive dialogue.
- Have monthly or weekly meals. Breaking bread is always beneficial in making all feel "at home". Let students see you outside the educational environment.
- Whatever you do, make everyone feel as though they are the most important member of the studio. Showing favorites can cause jealousy and rivalries.
- Studio "swag" or attitude can help promote positive feelings. Most of us like belonging to some sort of tribe. Your studio is no different- be inclusive.
- Use social media to encourage and promote your successes. This is not going away. Even if you are a technological emigrant, you can learn enough to be helpful. At worst, assign a student to oversee this for you.
- Bring in guest artists. Invite successful alumni so students can see that the light at the end of the tunnel can be a success rather than a freight train headed to nowhere.
- Perform with your students. They always enjoy hearing you play – especially if it is with them. It will make them feel better as a performer. Eventually, they should start sounding like you. What a compliment!
- Have students work on a digital portfolio. They should be able to see improvement and to save their work for future posterity and potential job placement.
- Ask your students which ideas may be best; ask them to contribute ideas. They often can come up with some surprisingly good ideas. Talk to other colleagues in your school as well as in the business. What works?
While this is not at all meant to be an all-inclusive list, maybe it will encourage you to continue the introspective look at your studio’s culture. Is it where you want it to be? Can it be better? How can you nurture the students you recruited to stay in your studio and have a wonderful college experience?