A Better Booster Group

Bill Thomas | October 2010

    “I’d rather do it myself” is the philosophy of some directors, especially when they want to control every aspect of the music program. The problem is that this outlook either keeps the band small or forces the director to sacrifice family life to take care of the myriad details necessary to produce a top-quality band.
    For those who feel they just can’t keep up anymore or who have added more responsibilities to their work load, here is some information about the band boosters organization at Shawnee Mission West High School. Before joining the staff I heard they had a great booster program. Roughly 85% of the parents belong to the booster organization, and about 60% participate in its activities each year. A surprising number of parents step up only during their child’s senior year and later comment that they wish they had done this earlier. Time commitment varies depending on the committee. Some of the committees work only a single event while others spend 100 hours in preparation for a big event.
    Booster organizations are effective only when they have the band director’s support and encouragement in addition to the tools necessary to accomplish the job. These might include a computer, re­ceipt books, cameras, video re­corders, ladders for moving items in the uniform room, ice chests, a budget, and so on. Parents become frustrated and quit if they don’t have the right tools to do the job well. I once asked a parent to video record the band’s events. The parent used his own video tapes and blank DVDs without a word of complaint. When I realized he was providing these items at his own expense, I purchased a spindle of 50 DVDs with sleeves. He has not made 50 DVDs yet, but the gesture showed my appreciation for his dedication to the band program and went a long way.

Passing the Notebook

    Every committee in the band booster organization has a notebook that gets passed from chairman to chairman every new school year. The front of each notebook has a timeline for each event as well as a checklist so that nothing is overlooked; a budget is in­cluded when necessary.
    Following each event the committee chairman submits a report to the boo­ster president detailing the event and whether it ran well in addition to describing any problems. The chairman adds new information to the timeline and checklist for the next committee chairman. Some pass on a CD of files and forms to the next committee chairman.
The notebook of the band booster president includes timelines for all committees as well as all band events for the year. This enables the president to offer assistance to the director instead of waiting for the director to ask for help.

Executive Committee

      The president, secretary, and treasurer all perform the usual tasks of that office, and the vice president is in training to take over the presidency the following school year.

    The Audio Recording committee records every concert and uses the band’s CD recorders, microphones, and handheld digital recorders, but have the option to use any of their own equipment. Either I or a parent who formerly helped the group will train parents who are unfamiliar with the equipment.
    The Audit committee reviews the treasurer’s activities at the end of each year, and the members are usually parents with an accounting background. Another committee puts on the year-end band banquet for over 400 people. On average, 3.18 people are present at this event for every student in the program. A separate catering sub-committee selects the caterer and orders the menu for the dinner, while yet another decorates the gymnasium.
    Chairs and tables are handled by a set-up committee, and the senior representative helps to design the banquet program, which includes memorable moments of each senior plus information about his future plans and an individual picture. All the committee chairmen coordinate their efforts with the band director for this event.
    Every band student walks across the stage, which makes each individual an important member of the band. We have chosen to honor everyone, not just the seniors or the most outstanding players. Each student receives a participation award, while some receive a letter or other awards.
    The Band Camp committee provides food for up to 200 students during the two-week camp session. This includes snacks and refreshments, including water, snack mixes, cookies, watermelon, and  the Spaghetti Dinner is the largest fund-raising event of the year. It includes subcommittees for auction solicitation (members mail letters to community businesses to procure goods for auction and then follow up with telephone calls and personal visits), and an auction administration group (organizes the pick-up of auction goods and advertises major items; it prepares bid sheets, tracks businesses that have contributed, and organizes auction workers). For dinner the dining committee secures a caterer and organizes subcommittees for desserts, drinks, a salad bar, the serving line, clean-up, sponsor recognition, volunteer sign-in, and decorating. A games group plans and organizes workers for children’s games and activities that take place during the event.
   Fundraising parents oversee all projects, including the sale of trash bags (they are big in the region), pizza, car washes, and grocery coupon books. There are public relations and photographic committees plus a myriad of others that are specific to the activities at this school. These include a back-to-school picnic to welcome students, PTSA representatives, and spirit wear to sell an inventory of shirts, hats, and other things. Beyond this we have sunshine (cards, flowers, and gifts), tailgate (cater at football games), ticket production, a Westridge Middle School liaison, and senior and freshman representatives.
    The idea behind these committees and subcommittees is to create groups of parents to handle everything not related to teaching. Most committees have as many parents the number who volunteer.
We want all band parents to find a way to help, so the band staff works hard not to turn anyone away. If someone is not a good fit for a job, I try to find something else for him. Just because a person volunteers for a position does not mean he automatically gets it.
    We use a nominating committee to fill our most important positions. If your school lacks a strong booster organization, I suggest you start by finding one outstanding parent and let him enlist other parents. Next develop a list of committees that fits your program. While a band boosters organization takes an investment of time to get started, once it is underway you will have more free time for your profession – teaching students about music.

Additional Committees