A Case Study of Music Education Institutional Recruiting Practices

Scott N. Edgar, Lake Forest College

Institutions of higher learning, to develop a rich and effective marketing and recruitment plan, devote a great deal of time and energy to attract prospective students. Music education programs often develop specialized recruiting strategies. The purpose of this study was to explore perceptions of music education recruiting practices at a liberal arts college. Questions guiding this inquiry were: (a) What are perspectives of the college’s admissions department, administration, music education program, and music education majors regarding recruiting for the college and music education?; (b) What recruiting practices did the students find effective and ineffective?; and (c) How could recruiting practices be improved?


Limited researcher attention has focused on recruiting for music education programs (Miksza & Austin, 2010; Waggoner, 1978; Walker & Hamann, 1995). The music education program under study was created in 2012. As the program is in its fledgling state, recruiting is of utmost importance.

Methodology and Data Sources

I selected an intrinsic case study (Stake, 1995) to guide this inquiry. The author of this study is the music education chair at Lake Forest College; therefore, elements of self-study influenced this research (Lassonde & Galman, 2009; Pinnegar & Hamilton, 2009). Participants were: (a) the music education teaching faculty member (author); (b) all current music education majors (four); (c) the senior associate director of admissions for the college; and (d) the associate dean of faculty for the college. All participants participated in three individual phenomenological interviews (September-November, 2015) (Seidman, 2012).


The findings include: (a) participant profiles; (b) content analysis of recruiting efforts; (c) context of the small college/small program; (d) selling points for the college and music education program; and (e) current and potential recruitment practices. Selling points included: (a) geographic location; (b) scholarships; (c) broad curriculum/rigor of the music education major; (d) practical fieldwork experience in K-12 schools; (e) faculty; and (f) small college/program and community. Current recruiting efforts included: (a) the admissions procedure; (b) a multifaceted

approach to marketing; (c) individualized attention; (d) campus visits; (e) faculty interactions; and (f) current student interaction. Findings were: (a) Interpersonal communication is critical to recruit students at both the college, department, and program level; (b) Faculty and current student interaction are some of the most powerful experiences for potential students; (c) No one means of recruiting is sufficient; a multi-channeled approach is necessary; and (d) Taking a vested interest in recruiting is important for music education faculty.


The perspectives of faculty, students, admissions, and administration were imperative to collectively capture music education recruitment at Lake Forest College. With the collegiate and departmental necessity to achieve student quotas, all must value and actively contribute to the recruitment efforts. Being available, communicating across campus, including current students, and varying recruitment strategies are all lessons learned moving forward.


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