Improve Retention With Culture and Community | Ep 143

Gain a Competitive Edge with Culture and Community

A music school is inherently a disjointed community. It’s a community comprised of students, parents, and instructors that might only come together as a community during recitals and concerts. Culture is defined by the customs, traditions, rituals, environment, and values of your music school. Culture helps define, strengthen, and unite a community. A community without culture is a community without purpose. It’s your job to define the culture of your music school-the customs, traditions, rituals, and values that make your music school, your community, unique.


Culture is a marketing strategy in and of itself. A marketing strategy that requires creativity, planning, and execution. I believe the secret to improving student retention is found in working on and developing your culture to help students, parents and employees, form a stronger emotional bond to your business.


Helping Kids Make New Friends

I recently interviewed a group of about 18 kids from Los Rios Rock School for my YouTube show called Kids Around the World. It became evident to me from just interviewing these kids, that there was such a unique bond that they had. They had lots of inside jokes. They were clearly close friends. They had all clearly bonded from the experience of Recording the entire Beach Boys masterpiece Pet Sounds. recording project, where they recorded the entire Pet Sounds album. I was so impressed with what a deep connection these kids had with each other.


Give Your Music School a Competitive Edge

Creating opportunities to help kids form new friendships and social bonds can really give your school a competitive edge. It can certainly help with student retention. It makes it hard to quit your music school if the music lesson is just one piece of the equation if the community and the culture of the school are also a big draw for your students.


That was certainly the case here with Los Rios Rock School. Kids, show up to your school, they take their lessons, and that they form a bond with the instructor, and perhaps the parent forms of bond with the instructor, perhaps the parent forms a bond with you, your office staff. In this model, it can be a very sort of limited connection where Los Rios Rock School, what they’re doing is they know that the connections that our students are forming are on a much larger level, much larger scale.


Creating Social Opportunities for Kids

The kids from Los Rios Rock School had a type of connection that you just typically wouldn’t expect to see with students at a music school. Maybe kids that were on a sports team together, or kids that maybe had gone to a sleep-away summer camp together. I thought to myself, well, how can more schools do that? What Los Rios Rock School did with this big production might not work for everybody. Especially if your music school isn’t a rock band-oriented school, but there are other ways to create culture and community in your school. What I did in my school was that we would have these Saturday night events. We’d have a movie night where the movie night was geared more towards younger students, and they could bring a friend. They’d come out to see the movie.


Music School Movie Night

It was a three or four-hour production. They’d bring a friend with sleeping bags and they would kind of spread the sleeping bags out on the floor. We serve popcorn and pizza. We had lots of games, trivia games. What we would do is we’d run the movie for about maybe 20 minutes or so and some of our teenage students who were volunteering, would watch the movie and the movie, by the way, always had some sort of musical theme. Typically, these were musicals, Glee, High School Musical, stuff that younger kids are really going to enjoy.  We’d stop the movie every 20 minutes and ask trivia questions about details from the movie that the kids had seen so far. Ss kids shouted out the answers they’d get small pieces of candy as a prize.


Community and Culture

Instead of a two-hour movie, because of these different games that we would play throughout the course of the movie, it turned into a three-hour production. At the end of the evening, some of the members of my staff would teach the kids how to sing a song from the movie, and they would perform it for their parents when they came to pick them up. The kids who were at that movie night were forming a bond, they were creating culture and community within a four-hour period. You can really bond with people in a four-hour period. If we had just shown a movie, there wouldn’t be any sense of culture or community. The fact that we created this competitive environment with the games, the kids who answered the questions right, each child boosted their status within the group. They were noticed more.


Open Mic Night at Your Music School

We would also do these open mic nights at the school. These were more for the teens. They were, again, allowed to bring a friend. They had to pay a small fee, $10 would cover them and their friend. We’d have food there. We really broke even on the, or we even sometimes lost money on these events, which was fine. The trade-off was we were building culture and community, which was so worth whatever money that we lost on the event. We had a stage set up and kids could just kind of go up there on their own and perform. We had a foosball table. It just meant so much for these teens. The whole idea of going out on Saturday night to an event was a cool idea for these kids.


Having a Good Time on Your Turf

I remember as a teenager, always wanting to go out to events and that’s why we would get into trouble. We would create our own events. Someone’s parents leave town for the weekend, party at that kid’s house. It’s an event. We felt like we were more mature than we really were. We felt like we were the teenagers in the movies. I was able to create that environment in a safe setting. This was kids having a good time on their own turf, my music school.


How Can you Create Culture and Community in Your School?

I really encourage you to think about what are some different ways you can create culture and community in your school. Your music lesson, that’s one factor of your business, or perhaps it’s the only component of your business. The more that you can expand on the experience that you create for students, the more likely they are to feel connected to your music school, the more excited they’re going to be, to be a part of your community.


Better Student Retention Rates

The impact that this is going to have on student retention is huge. If you have a student who likes their music lessons okay, they enjoy coming once a week for the lesson. They’re not really that committed or ambitious when it comes to their instrument. Maybe they don’t practice that much during the week. How many of your students already fit into that description? Those students are at risk of leaving your music school after a few months, or maybe a year of taking lessons. Some of those students stay on longer because their parents make them stay longer. They want to quit, they want to try a new activity. If you’re a music school, if they can feel an emotional connection, an emotional bond and a social bond with your music school, if your music school can become a place where they meet and make new friends, the more likely they’re going to be to want to stay at your music school for longer because your music school means something more to them than just a place for them to learn how to play an instrument.


Have Greater Impact on Kids Lives

You’re competing not only with other music schools, but you’re competing with martial arts studios, dance studios, afterschool sports. One of the biggest challenges with music schools that offer private lessons is that private lessons aren’t a social activity in the way that dance a class is, in the way that a soccer team is. The more social you can make your school, the more impact you can have on a child’s life, the more deliberate and the more creative you can be in efforts to create community and culture, the more impact you’re going to have on kids’ lives. The more impact you’re going to have, and the more impact that will have on your business.


Featured Music School Owner

Thank you to Charles Simon of Stages Music Arts for his recent review of the podcast.

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