Small 2A One director 8th grade are in high school band
For several years now I get my young students fired up. I mean I am a heck of a salesman!! They are TOTALLY on board with the program.
Then they become sophomores and it starts going downhill. They stop practicing. They stop taking their horns home. Just today one of my best kids who - two years ago took her horn to recess EVERY day and played stuff she found on the internet - left all her music on the stand, didn't even take it to her horn slot. By senior year its all my kids can do to stay in band. Many are gone.
I've been teaching 23 years so I mostly get it. Senior burn out. Worse here because they get FIVE years of marching band rather than four.
But I've been at this school 9 years now. It's been going on all 9 years. I believe I'm creating a climate that perhaps is not mature enough. I must make a change if I want a change. Any perspective??
You have on average 3 years with a kid in HS Marching Band. Yes, hopefully you'll keep kids through their senior year, but truthfully many do end up getting jobs, have their interests change, get burned out, etc. If you're starting 8th grade for marching band that really is 10th grade for you. Unfortunately in a Small 2A I doubt you have any choice but to use them. I think the ideas of leadership roles are good, but for the kind of kid you're talking about you do need to find another carrot.
Maybe some different trips you take? We usually have better retention on trip years for us, that might be a way forward for you. Don't go to the same destination for each trip, give them something different? We did Florida last trip, we're going to Cleveland next year for the next. I'll probably return to the mouse again the next trip. (If I'm still there we might do NYC again the following one)
Reach out to some other 2A directors in your area and see if anyone has some better ideas there. Your problem is not unique to your school, and many have to use their 7th graders and the would put that burnout point even earlier.
The older they get, the more you need to sell ownership of the program. You have to make it their program. Get as many upper classmen involved in being a leadership team as you can, and make it real - not just a name or title. They will buy in more (and stay) if they see the program as theirs.
I have always believed that part of the problem with upperclassman retention is that the band is 'not as good as when I was a freshman.' When they were freshmen, the juniors and seniors were awesome and could do anything. When they became sophomores, those amazing seniors are gone, and this new group of freshmen is so much slower getting up to speed than their class was. When they become juniors, those kids that were sophomores when we were freshmen are really seniors now? The aren't nearly as good as the seniors when we were freshmen, and by the way - this year's freshmen? Clueless. Now we are seniors, and honestly there are a lot of kids in this senior class that are either gone or just don't care as much as the seniors when we were freshmen. We can understand it because the band just isn't as good as when we were freshman and sophomores. But..as directors we know that the band has actually improved every year. The kids think it is the opposite.