Recruiting for an Inclusive Program

By Carlos Bautista

As many of us are gearing up for band camp, and the start of the new school year, it would be a great opportunity to analyze where your program is at in terms of equity, diversity, and inclusion! 

For scholastic programs, the goal should be to reflect the general student population in the team. For instance, if Jane Doe HS is made up of 45% caucasian students, 30% african american students, 15% hispanic or latino students, 7% asian students, and 3% as multi-race students, then the Jane Doe HS Indoor program should reflect similar data. If your program doesn’t have similar data to that of the general population, then it could be a benefit to evaluate any processes that can lead to that. The easiest way to see where you can improve is by how your current members recruit for the program. Do they tend to gather towards a specific group of students? Encouraging them to expand those that they speak with and ‘sell’ the program to may help. A great resource to use to see your school’s demographics is the Urban Institute! Their website has a feature that has data from the US Department of Education for every K-12 public school in the United States. The link for that feature is below:

For independent programs, it’s harder to get that baseline if you aren’t associated with a college or university. An opportunity to expand the students that gain interest in your program is to host clinics/auditions in areas that either don’t have a program of their own, or those students may not have been exposed to the independent experience. Many students stop their marching arts performance career after high school since they may not know the opportunities and experiences they can have with the independent units. The stronger the bond between independent units and scholastic programs, the more likely we will see those scholastic performers make the transition successfully into an independent group. Giving students from underrepresented backgrounds exposure to these groups may also lead more of these performers to seek long term interest in what we do. This can be a way of finding the next generation of technicians/instructors, choreographers, designers, and directors. 

The makeup of the staff you have in front of them, for both scholastic and independent, can also be a determining factor for newcomers on whether they want to pursue your program. Many times students identify themselves with those that can understand them and relate to, and your staff is included in that. If you are able to have a staff member, take into consideration how the students can both identify with and look up to. In my own experience, I have always tried to have a staff that is built of women of color mainly since that is what my teams have been composed of. It has helped bridge the gap for several students in being able to see a successful participant in the marching arts that they can relate to. Relatability is huge with gaining the trust of your students. It can be difficult for female performers to see the appeal of colorguard if the staff is mainly made up of males. 

Recruiting can be the first step in working towards a more inclusive environment for all performers. The last thing to keep in mind when recruiting, is no two units or schools will be able to have the same outcome when the same steps are taken. Every school and program is unique and will have different factors to consider when making improvements in the structure of the organization. It’s important to share with each other as peers to not only improve our own programs, but the FFCC at-large. 

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