So you know how some parents seem to feel like it’s utter punishment to attend your school music concerts? They’re on their phones from the moment they walk in the door until they sneak out to take a call and then leave as soon as their own child is finished performing…
Have you considered that perhaps the fault isn’t entirely 100% theirs? That it might be yours?
I recently had a visit with a couple friends of mine who have children in a local band program that had a concert last week. I asked my friends how the concert was and the response was actually shocking to me! Not only did they say the ‘music’ was terrible [they couldn’t even tell what the song was supposed to sound like], the kids seemed to be really tortured while playing it [frustrated…not enjoying the music…], and it lasted almost 90 minutes. This is a band program with less than 100 students and 2 ensembles.
So let’s get this straight: the students didn’t enjoy it, the parents didn’t enjoy it, and they all had to stay for about 45 minutes too long…
Now I know you’re thinking, “But it’s important for them to demonstrate their musical skills and maybe that’s how long it takes…and…and” and your excuses are really very unnecessary. It’s time to stop thinking that the public is there to serve us, and instead that we are there to serve #1 the students, #2 the public, #3 our administration, and #4 ourselves.
It is 100% possible to please everyone, while demonstrating musical skills, having a great time, and letting everyone out before happy hour is over.
Thus, I submit to you the 5 reasons your concerts may totally suck, and a bit of advice on how to make sure they are awesome from now on:
Your music selection sucks.
It all really needs to start here…selecting music that not only teaches things to your kiddos, but they enjoy and the audience will enjoy and you will enjoy. Trust me here, I tried some songs out on my K-2 kids earlier this year because I had an idea to do an all-animal-themed performance and it was pretty clear from the start that they didn’t dig most of the songs I had chosen. So I tossed that whole idea and came up with a new theme and songs they would enjoy and I could turn into a real show!
Don’t pick music that is too hard. The kids won’t enjoy it, they won’t have it prepared enough in time to teach them how to make those notes and rhythms into music.
Don’t pick music that is not meaningful. Ask yourself ‘WHY’ you are programming any one piece. If you don’t have a good reason for it, don’t do it.
DO pick a variety of tempos, styles, and something that will leave everyone humming at the end.
Bruce Pearson gives some great advice on the pieces you need to have in your program. CLICK HERE TO READ IT.
So just be smart. There’s sooooooooooooooooo much music out there, you just have to find it!
Your timing and transitions suck.
If you have a period of silence longer than about 5 seconds, you’re going to lose your audience and it’s going to be awkward! Make sure something is happening as you transition from one song to another or one ensemble to another.
And it’s okay to not have talking between songs. Switch it up by taking the applause then jumping right into the next song. Break the pattern. Add surprise and variety and you’ll keep your audience and students engaged.
Look, YOU may be goddess’s gift to music and love to sit through a 45-minute long symphonic rendition of anything, but your students, their parents, and your admin are probably not. If there isn’t something more than just music going on, their going to drift away from you.
Think about each song on your program and ask yourself: how can I make this one special? Can you have a soloist stand up? Can you have someone sing? Can you add actions? Or a projection? Or some kind of movement? Or a visual element of some kind?
At the program I just did this week with my K-2 kiddos I used all of the following:
• actions [from simple hand movements to full-body movement]
• audience participation [they helped select song lyrics, actions, made them try out the tricky lyrics, and some even came up and let us sing to them]
• video projection
• confetti poppers
• movement up and down the front of the stage
Now, not all of that will be appropriate for my community concert band performance…but that’s a whole different audience entirely! Will I still integrate some type of novelty? YOU BET! Because as much as my audience may remember one or two songs on the program, I want to give them something they will never forget.
That’s just how I roll…and how you should, too.
But don’t take my word for it. Check out this episode of the Music Ed Mentor Podcast where Ryan Guth offers some of the same advice.
Your length is too long.
If you’re longer than an hour, you have enough for two concerts. I put on 4 programs a year at my school and 3 of them I try to shoot for 45 minutes. Total. The 4th I may push to an hour because it’s Christmas and we bring in the baby Jesus and do this whole nativity scene thing so yeah…that ones’ a bit longer. I also incorporate all of the students in all 9 grades. Whew!
But seriously. We’ve been trained by the almighty TV that episodes are over in 21 minutes of action. We are given commercials every 8 minutes. And each commercial is no more than 60 seconds. 90% or more of our media is accessible on-demand. We have low attention spans so please understand that you need to keep it short, relevant, and enjoyable.
Want to fit in more grades, ensembles, music? Make another concert.
You’re missing the point.
Why do we put on concerts? Or performances of any kind, really?
You probably say what I would have 20 years ago: It’s to demonstrate for an audience what our students can do while also teaching them to be performers.
Yes! This is true! 100%.
But it’s not just those reasons. Performances also serve our stakeholders [think about pep band, parade marching, Veteran’s Day programs…so many ways to SERVE]. It’s a way for the public to connect with the school. It’s a stage for our own advocacy. It’s a chance for you to show off a little, too.
So use this platform that you’re given to do more than just show off your student’s impressive skills. Leverage the opportunity for all you got, and for heaven’s sake…have fun while you do it!