HomeAll in the Family – Alumni Strengthen the Program

brodymcd's picture

There's no question that alumni can strengthen any program with their support. Most often, we think of alums as willing donors or as easy ticket sales for homecoming concerts. Alumni can add much, much more to your program if you cultivate relationships. Here's what we have found:

  • Arrangements – a high school kid who can make any semblance of an arrangement will become a fantastic contributor once they've gone off to college. More free time, experience and theory training will turn them into a great resource. Yes, there are many places to get charts, but using alumni has such a great “circle of life” quality for the singers.
  • Recording – one of our ex-members had always dabbled in live sound reinforcement through playing in bands. He bought some recording gear to overdubs and demos on the guitar at home. He didn't know much about recording at the time, but he was really affordable. He cut his teeth on our first album, and three CDs later – he's wonderful! Getting in on the ground floor with someone who wants to learn the rec-tech trade is mutually beneficial.
  • Website management – there's no guarantee that a high school group will have a web-savvy student every year. If you find a member who takes those reins, see if they'll keep it up after they graduate. In this social-networking age, they're bound to keep in touch with their old pals anyway... the Web site is their “baby,” so let them keep raising it. Just remember: Facebook, MySpace and blogging sites make web publishing easy, but set them up with the director as the account originator. This will allow the editing to be passed from one student to another should the need arise.
  • Alumni outreach coordinator – we are about to get our first-ever formalized alumni organization, starting when one of our strong seniors graduates this year. She is already on board, and will living in town for the next few years – a perfect candidate to build a sustainable organization.
  • Camp counselor – I have many alums who come back in the summertime and pitch in on our rehearsals at “a cappella camp.” They help with sectionals, do one-on-one coaching, and do tech work for our end-of-week camp show.
  • Pinch-hitters – recently we had a big gig in town: singing an hour slot for the 4th of July. The event usually pulls in thousands. When our bass announced he was taking a job in Germany right after graduation, I thought we'd have to cancel. The group had other ideas, and thought one step ahead to contact two alums to split the job of learning all the bass parts.

This all sounds a bit obvious... but alums love their group. Small groups like this are high-school highlights, so they love to see the group succeed as time goes on. How wonderful for the organization to find new ways for alums to keep the group not just surviving, but growing. Whatever talents your graduating seniors will be cultivating in college, invite them to use their old group as a risk-free training ground. Because they care about the group, they'll go above and beyond, and they'll get experience that they need where they are, too.

The best part about using alums is that it shows current and future members that they are part of something very special – something bigger than themselves. It also vividly illustrates that all the extra work members put in now will not just fade away at commencement. Members know that they are forever linked with all incarnations of their group: past and present. What's a better feeling than that?

About the author:
Brody McDonald is the Director of Choirs at Kettering Fairmont High School. Fairmont’s ensembles have appeared at OMEA conference (2003, 2005, 2007, 2008) and consistently receive the highest ratings at state-level adjudicated events. Fairmont’s concert choirs have been featured performers on university and church artist’s series, have performed with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, and have shared the stage with artists ranging from The Texas Boys’ Choir to Kenny Rogers. Fairmont's pop/a cappella group Eleventh Hour has sung backup for Kenny Loggins, opened for LeAnn Rimes and The Beach Boys, and has been selected to perform at the American Choral Director's Association Central Division Conference in 2010. Eleventh Hour has numerous studio CDs, have appeared on BOHSA 2008, 2009 and SING V, and won CARA awards for Best High School Album and Best High School Song. Eleventh Hour recordings are available for download at www.acatunes.com

[photo: Cornell's Last Call alumni]


Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes

Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes.

Alumni can make or break a program.  Bingo!

--Dave Brown

now: Mouth Off host | ICCA & CARA Judge

then: CASA president, CASAcademy director, CASA Bd of Directors | BYU Vocal Point | Noteworthy co-foun

one more way a cappella

one more way a cappella groups are like fraternities. have we ever looked at some fraternal models?

Bryan Guffey Singer, Technologist, Dreamer, soon-to-be podcast creator and host!

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