“When you are student- and ensemble-focused, great things can happen,” says Paul Lowry, the Director of Bands, Percussion and Jazz Studies at Del Sol Academy of the Performing Arts in Las Vegas.
Lowry was given the daunting task of reviving the band program at Del Sol Academy. “To revive any program takes the whole community, and each part is equally important. We set several wheels in motion at the same time,” he says.
Developing strong meaningful relationships across the building was essential. The school’s principal always says to “do what is best for the kids,” and Lowry took his advice to heart. “We have worked hard so that our arts programs exemplify this motto,” he says.
Lowry also worked with the academic counseling staff to discuss placing students correctly, promoting the program to prospective students, student enrollment and supporting his performing arts goals.
A booster program was started, and parents eagerly filled volunteer positions. The club now hosts banquets, cultivates fundraisers and solicits donations while building a sense of community. The boosters and administration joined forces with Lowry to gradually purchase equipment over several years, and Lowry applied for every grant possible to help put better instruments into students’ hands.
These “baby steps” has allowed the music program at Del Sol Academy to make leaps and bounds toward what it is today. “Over seven and a half years, the band program has grown from a single band of 70 students to three concert bands, three jazz bands, two percussion classes, a marching band and a 90+ philharmonic orchestra totaling over 500 students combined,” Lowry boasts. “We have experienced incredible growth thus far, but we are far from being done. I am excited for what the future holds!”
This growth has come because of a constant and never-ending recruitment and retention process. “Repetition and consistency are my real secrets to recruiting. Middle schooler students should see you often enough that they know your name,” Lowry says. “We always invite our middle school students to join us at several performances, including our pre-festival concert, community performances and our spring concert, which usually includes a combined piece that we put together with select kids from the middle schools. Allowing them to perform next to seniors excites them for the next level, bridges the gap between middle school and high school, and builds mentor/mentee friendships.”
Lowry emphasizes the importance of communication, especially when integrating band merchandise. “Branding our program has been a major tool in creating exclusivity within an inclusive program,” Lowry explains. “Students want to feel like they are part of a community, so we utilize common branding on flyers, bookmarks, pencils, buttons, pins, apparel and wristbands. Not only do these items advertise our website, concert program dates, upcoming events, but they also inform students on the process to join our program. Nothing goes to waste, as any extra merchandise gets sent over to our feeder school colleagues to give out as prizes and incentives.”