Holiday concert season
As I reminisce on my first semester as a teacher, I can’t help but think about how I could’ve been more prepared for certain events-most importantly my holiday concerts. I had never been in charge of every part of the concert process before this December. During my student teaching semester in college I conducted pieces at concerts and helped organize the ensembles, but it did not prepare me for
- Choosing all of the repertoire-making sure it is the age/talent appropriate level, fun for the students and fun for the audience
- Creating standing charts for every choir and catering to certain needs such as “my daughter can’t stand next to ____ because that girl has had bed bugs at her house before” and”sorry, Miss H, but I broke my ankle yesterday at practice and can’t stand at our concert tonight
- Having the students practice both standing on the risers as well as getting on and off of the risers
- Having the students understand the importance of staying in their place after our lines to get onto the risers are set
- Physically getting the gym prepared for the concert which included moving all four sets of risers, the piano, the sterio, stands, microphones, cords and chairs downstairs by myself
- Creating and distributing the programs
- Being prepared for soloists to be unprepared-one student came to school the day of the concert with no speaking voice because she was cheering too hard at a basketball game the night before
- Knowing exactly what to say and when to say it during the actual concert-Should I speak in between every song? What do I say?
- Dealing with uniforms-this year our music ensembles required students to purchase a polo, which was a struggle and a half
I’m positive that I’m missing some stuff, but this is the bulk of the things that stressed me out. On top of that, I had no one to go to for help besides the band director (my mentor) who I always bombard with questions.
Through this experience I have learned a few things that I hope will benefit some of my future music education colleagues.
- Very early-by Halloween at the latest-write a list of every single thing you will need to do to have a successful concert. Hopefully my bulleted points above are at least a small starting point for you.
- Make sure you secure your accompanist over a month in advance. I waited to do this until Halloween and started to get really nervous about not finding one. This was an unrealistic worry, since I live in a major city where I could absolutely find a stranger to play if I needed to, it was still a huge worry for me. Also, make sure the accompanist has their music way ahead of time. I paid out of pocket for mine and gave her some chocolate treats and a $30 gift card to Target. I believe I could’ve added her payment into my budget, but I didn’t plan it early enough.
- If you are performing with recorded music (all of my sixth grade music was performed to CD accompaniment, because they performed on a separate concert) make sure you create a separate playlist for every song. That way when a song ends it will automatically stop and you won’t have to worry about pausing it so that you can allow enough time for applause or give time to speak to the audience.
- Give your students wiggle room. Our concert started at 7:30, so I made students arrive by 7:00. I think the next time we have a concert I will make them arrive by 6:45, because there were many late students. A sixth grader (who was supposed to be here by 7:00) didn’t arrive until 7:50-twenty minutes AFTER the concert began.
- At the middle school and high school level don’t just give students all of their concert points for showing up. At our school the concert is worth 250 points, because if students miss it without an excuse it brings them down two letter grades. However, the students were aware that they didn’t receive all of their points for showing up (like they had in previous years). I gave them 50 points for being on time/dressed in the appropriate uniform; 50 points for their behavior in the audience (a big issue at our school) and staying throughout the entirety of the concert; and the last 150 for their actual performance-posture, not looking like zombies, etc. The well-behaved students deserve to earn all 250 of their points. It is not fair for them to receive the same amount of points at the poorly behaved students just because they all showed up and opened their mouths to sing.
- Ask for help. I will definitely be learning from my mistakes. I should’ve asked older students to help me move the equipment/risers. I should’ve asked adults to help monitor the students. I especially should’ve asked my most responsible students to hand out the programs. Instead, I tried to be fair and pulled two random names out of my eighth grade class. I later found out that they stopped handing out the programs and sat with their friends fifteen minutes before the show even started.
Ultimately, I feel very good about how my first concerts as a teacher went, but I look forward to our concerts in May when I am more prepared. If you have any other concert advice, I would love to hear it in the comments below. I by no means consider myself an expert on this subject after having two concerts under my belt and appreciate any advice on how to make the concert process more painless.