By Luke Roberts, Staff Writer –
The Department of Performing Arts has had some struggles as of late, particularly with recruiting students for the marching band program.
Stuart Benkert, Performing Arts Department Director, said that the are a few reasons why students might avoid joining the marching band.
“A student won’t join a band if there is not a lot of excitement around the program,” he said. “For instance, if there aren’t a lot of people at the games, if morale is low in the community, if there’s not a chance of going to bowl games, if there’s not a lot of travel involved [or if] you don’t get to go to away games like at the big schools.”
Benkert said that the small size of the current band could be also be a factor.
“Students often judge quality by quantity,” he said. “So if they don’t see a large band, they might feel like it’s not worth their time.”
Benkert said that a big reason for the decline in enrollment in the department was primarily due to the belief that the music program was going to be cut. UTC has tried to strengthen recruitment efforts by meeting with two-year institutions to find a solution to the dwindling members of the music department. The department has been working with Jordan Hicks, a first-year coordinator of the Department of Performing Arts, to guide its recruitment efforts.
“The music department in general needs a higher level of enrollment,” Benkert said. “We have been meeting with all of the state colleges like Chattanooga State, Pelissippi State and Tullahoma. The faculty have been out recruiting quite a bit-more than ever before.”
Hicks said the program is recruiting students at high schools and two-year institutions that want to transfer to a four-year college. He noted a new, unique curriculum is being built to give students more independence.
“This new curriculum [is] designed to give students more freedom,” he said. “If we have a student that is interested in learning an instrument that may not be one of your traditional type of instruments, say like a banjo, or if they want to bring in an iPad and learn how to be a professional DJ, we [now]have the opportunities and the curriculum designed so that that student can do that here.”
Hicks said numerous strategies are being used to draw attention to the Performing Arts Department. They are utilizing social media and school visits, and the department is establishing relationships with other schools.
He said a greater amount of recruiting work must be done in particular in regard to students who might not know about the music program. He said the music department is in a building season right now, but steps are being taken to improve it.
“If you compare us to a school that’s the same size as UTC, their bands are larger than our band,” Hicks said. “We’ve made a lot of changes here in-house [and] in our department to help change the tide. It’s a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity in that we can build to something even better for the future.”
Joshua Wood, a junior from Chattanooga, said that he thinks a lack of involvement on campus in years past has affected peoples’ willingness to stay in the program. He is hopeful that the bands presence will help them grow.
“As our presence has grown on campus and in downtown, students in the band have begun to understand their importance within the Marching Mocs and the community,” he said.