School of Music


Doctor of Music Education (DME)


Brian D. Stiffler


high school band, public school music, student recruitment, student retention, budget, program building




Since 2006, many San Diego County High Schools have experienced a dramatic decline in music program enrollment. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the new teaching paradigm served as catalysts that caused some San Diego County high schools to discontinue their music programs entirely. The enrollment statistics for San Diego County high school music programs during the fifteen years from 2006-2021 fall far below the national average. The effects of these changes have left many students and communities with either a struggling music program or without a music program at all. This case study examined a set of San Diego County high school music programs from 2006-2021 to determine the internal and external causes for the decreased enrollment numbers. By examining these fifteen years, this study determined that the decline in enrollment was a trend, not an anomaly. The COVID-19 pandemic's decline exacerbated the situation for students, teachers, and administrators. Further, this study identified the characteristics that distinguish the programs with sustained or increased enrollment from those with decreased enrollment. The study consisted of analyzing and evaluating enrollment data provided by the districts, festival and competition scores, and demographic data. These data were examined in light of leading literature on the subject and compared against the national averages.

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