Finding new members for your group requires commitment and effort over a prolonged period of time. So, once they have joined, it’s important they keep coming. This resource looks at what you can do to make sure your members stay engaged and happy in your group.
- Think about group dynamics
- Learn names
- Get them hooked!
- Keep it flexible
- Help people to feel confident in what they are doing
- Have a shared goal
- Get people more invested and give them ownership
- Access and inclusion
Trying one of the suggestions below for a couple of weeks won’t work – you may have to apply them consistently for a few months to see results. You may find that by implementing these ideas you will be making changes to your group’s culture. This might not be right for every group and big changes need to be thought through. However, these measures will be worth it when you have a happy group of people that keep coming back.
1. Think about group dynamics
The social element of being in a group is crucial. Good group dynamics don’t just happen by accident!
Here are a few ideas you could try:
- Use a buddy system or have a rotating welcoming team to make sure new people aren’t left on their own. You might want your welcoming team to be explicit about their role, or you could have low-key welcomers.
- A break in the middle of a session creates a great opportunity for people to socialise.
- Avoid any tendencies to get comfortable and let cliques form. Whether it’s in the way you communicate with your members outside of meeting up or how you speak to them in person, make sure you’re consistently putting into practice the welcoming, friendly, inclusive values that your group has.
- Ice breakers and warmups can encourage people to come out of their comfort zones, and encourage them to listen to each other as much as contribute.
2. Learn names
Calling someone by name sends a signal to them that you recognise and value them as an individual within a group. Find ways to help your group get to know each other by name.
- Build a name game into a warmup activity.
- Put names on all the music folders, rather than ‘violin 2, desk 1’, give everyone a folder at random, and get them to find out who to give it to.
- General pair/small group work, where you remind people to introduce themselves by name.
- Give people name badges.
3. Get them hooked!
Create an environment outside of the music, where friendships can form and flourish organically and keep them coming back.
- Facebook group for members only, or a WhatsApp group can help new members feel included and develop friendships away from rehearsals.
- Putting on ice-breaker activities and encouraging people to share something about themselves can create a way for people to form relationships.
- Arrange social activities after rehearsals Be clear that everyone is welcome.
- Organise Christmas dinners, or picnics and jamming in the park during the summer.
4. Keep it flexible
Your members may have busy lives outside of the rehearsal room for a range of reasons. This could be shift work, childcare or other commitments, so it can help to be a bit flexible. If you decide to go down this route, it’s worth making sure the ground rules are clear.
- If members miss a session, they need to catch up before the next session.
- If this is the approach you take, think of ways to help people can catch up with the music. Provide parts they can download, record rehearsals, practice tracks or point them to YouTube recordings.
- Offer hybrid rehearsals so some can join online – removing travel time and the need to be there in person might help them juggle life commitments.
- If members want to take part in the concert they need to have attended at least X% of rehearsals.
- If you’re a group that currently requires members to be there every week, but you want to be more flexible, introduce the idea of flexible attendance gradually, perhaps by starting with a set trial period.
- Be honest with yourself and current members that flexible attendance might bring down the music standards initially.
- Be clear with your members about why you’re doing this and focus on the positive goal of making it easier for people to attend.
5. Help people to feel confident in what they are doing
Be open about what musical standard your members need to be at. Do you expect them to be able to sight read or play to Grade 5 standard? Or is it more relaxed and can they just come and have a go?
- People are most likely to feel confident when they’re in a group appropriate to their level of skill and experience, so make this clear from the start and be consistent about it.
- Be open to offering opportunities for people to try out different parts if something doesn’t fit or they want to progress.
- Don’t forget to praise your members from time to time! This can come from an MD, section leader, or just player to player.
Confident people are more likely to feel comfortable and happy, and are more likely to feel part of the group and make friends.
6. Have a shared goal
Create opportunities for the group to pull together and have something to work towards. This doesn’t have to be your usual performances.
- The opportunity to take part in exciting performances, perhaps in unusual locations, take part in a festival, do a livestream, team up with another music or arts group in your area or commission new music.
- Making a recording can create a huge sense of achievement for a group.
- Touring offers an additional social element to an exciting musical opportunity to look forward to.
- Competitions can pull a group together and give them something to focus on.
7. Get people more invested and give them ownership
If people feel like they’re a stakeholder and have a clearly defined role to play, it can help them feel embedded within a group.
- A role could be big or small, formal or informal. Some may be attracted to committee membership, others might prefer organising a trip to the pub at the end of a rehearsal.
- Being given a role you don’t really want can lead to guilt/resentment and have the opposite effect.
- Whatever the role - show your appreciation to whoever is taking it on.
Access and inclusion
Access and inclusion underpins the seven sections above. If members feel able to access your group, and included when they do so, they are more likely to keep coming back. People can experience a huge range of physical, practical and cultural barriers that may not be immediately apparent. If you want to explore access and inclusion for your group, we have a range of resources to help.
- Creating an accessible and inclusive group
- Welcoming new people by building diversity and inclusion
- Planning and running accessible and inclusive activities
- Inclusive communications
- People don’t necessarily come – or stay – for the music alone. Create an environment where bonds can form.
- Effective group dynamics don’t just happen – they need some thought and effort to get them started.
- Don’t stand still – people get bored with the same things year after year. New music, and new activities will help people stay engaged.
- Be flexible – lifestyles are ever shifting and weekly commitments don’t suit everyone. If you don’t offer flexibility, another group might
- Give people a stake in the group – big or small it will help build commitment (and run your group!)
We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.