Preparing for A Concert or School Performance
I’m always looking for new tips and tricks to make concert preparation easier. I feel like I perpetually get burned out and stressed out when planning for a school performance because there are so many details to work out. Anything that I can do to alleviate some of the stress and worry is worth it.
So, In this week’s 2/4 Tuesday link up party I’m going to talk about program/concert stuff… because I just had one this last Tuesday! Programs should be fun and exciting instead of stressful and frustrating. Here are some tips that might make your concert life a little easier!
#1 – Make A School Performance Checklist
I know that even the hint of a checklist has some of you sitting up in your seats. You love bulleted lists, checklist apps for your phones, crossing off tasks, and spending time with your planners. You don’t have to be a certified “list maker” for a concert checklist to be helpful. First of all, creating a list helps you remember all the steps that you need to take to make your concert successful. Sometimes writing down what you need to do reminds you of something else that you don’t want to forget. For instance, writing down “confirm extra risers” may help you remember that you also need to “confirm reservation of the auditorium.”
If you write down everything you need to accomplish then you know that you won’t miss anything important. I usually sit down and brainstorm a big list of all the things I want to do and then add to the list along the way. Adding to a “master list” is super helpful because you can use it over and over agin for your future school performances. Also, it’s super cathartic to check something off the list. Done! Moving on!
I’ve attached my list here for download (if you want) to see what I do to prepare for a school performance. All of my concerts are off site at the closest high school (our school doesn’t have a space large enough to host a concert of any size) so my list might be different from yours, but the ideas are the same.
#2 Work With Music That You Like
Nothing is more annoying than having to sing a song you HATE five hundred times, teaching it over and over every day. Don’t teach anything that you’re not willing to sing yourself and hear an infinite amount of times. I mean, even once the concert is over you know that there will be times months later when kids ask, “Can we sing [insert annoying song here] because we love it so much, PLEASE!?!?!” If you don’t like it right away, don’t subject yourself to singing it hundreds of times.
Instead, invest in music you like. Invest in music that’s clever. Invest in something that teaches concepts while you learn. Last year I did the John Jacobson “Bear-y Merry Holiday” and I loved it because it was cute music that included a partner song, some harmony, word play, good actions, and a variety of musical styles all at a level that could be taught to second and third grade. Those are the best kind of programs.
Can’t find a good program/musical for your school performance? Make your own! I just created my own show and it was truly not that hard. I took a bunch of songs that I liked, pulled them together, wrote dialog in-between, put on a central theme, and bam! New program. My most recent program was a thinly veiled citizenship program dressed up in the guise of a space invasion. There’s only one song about space, but when your dialog in-between involves aliens and kids talking, they get the idea. See below for what I pulled together. As you can see, many of the songs are old MusicK8 songs from various volumes.
Is There Life on Mars? – Music K8: Vol. 10, No. 5
Frances Willard School Song
High Five Hand Jive — From the musical “Let’s Pass It On” by Michael and Jill Gallina
Gratitude Attitude — Music K8: Vol. 11, No. 5
The Things we Share — Music K8: Vol. 11, No. 5
Pass It On — Also from the musical “Let’s Pass It On” by Michael and Jill Gallina
#3 – Have a Quick Way to Communicate with Students DURING the Concert
I find that I put so much effort into school performances that the rest of the night after my show is a blur of decompression and stress-release. If you’ve worked that hard then you want to ensure that all your good work comes to fruition in a good program. The hard thing is that you’re working with very little humans and they get EASILY distracted. They’re wearing their very nice clothes and they’re in a weird place on risers and they’re singing their fun songs and their parents are there! Ya-hoo! So much to get distracted by… Have a way to pull them back in!
I made these signs last year that have been a great help. They’re the basics. Watch me! Smile! I can’t hear you, sing louder! Quiet! I went to Dollar Tree and found the standard classroom signs and then made a couple of my own (the ear and smile) to modify for what I needed at the concert.
These signs work pretty well for me, except for the quiet sign. It works alright for kids who are watching but sometimes when kids are going and talking they don’t think to look at me and my waving arms and quiet sign. I’m trying to think of a non-verbal signal to get them to quiet down (especially at those parts where we’re waiting after clapping has stopped before kid get to the mic to speak). I’m thinking that an easy rhythmic pattern of snapping wouldn’t be too intrusive and would get them to listen. Maybe a clicker? Any thoughts on this? I’d totally love to know what you do with that…
#4 – How Long Do I Hold This Pose?
So, at the end of your song, do you have kids strike a pose or hold up their hands or freeze? When do they relax? When do they start moving again? For my programs I really don’t want to have to be in charge of when that happens. I’ve got a lot on my mind when the program happens and I want make them in charge of when to move or break their pose.
I stole this idea from my great mentor teacher, Debbie Gray. She said to her students, “You can move when the last person stops clapping.” That means that they have to be quiet, listen, pay attention, and all decide together when the last person in the room stops clapping. This actually works really well for me. For the week or two before the school performance we really practice and I clap in class and make them stop and listen before they move. It’s pretty fun and gives them the responsibility. This also frees me up to look at my script, fiddle with the speakers, make sure I have what I need for the next segment, or move from the piano to my spot.
Have a music education blog? Wanna share 2 to 4 ideas? Head over to visit the blog “Stay Tuned” and learn how you can link up and share ideas!