Concert Planning Logistics for New EducatorsNov 09, 2021
‘Tis the season to sing and play! There are very few traditions, especially holiday traditions, that do not include some kind of music which is why concerts are often so treasured in a school community. As music teachers, we have been part of concerts for the better part of our lives. We truly understand the importance of sharing music with others and how music so quickly becomes part of the tradition itself. However, if you are a new educator, you may not realize all of the logistics that go into making these musical memories for your students. So, here are some concert planning logistics that I have learned along the way that might help you be more prepared for concert season.
First things, first!
Because concert traditions are so instilled in the school community, I have learned to begin by checking in with others to make the concert a success long before I even choose repertoire. To make a concert happen, you often need your principal’s help to find a date that works for the whole school community. You need custodians who will be able to help with setup and teardown. You need the secretary to help with promoting the event. Are you using the gym? The gym teacher is certainly someone who needs to feel included! You also might need other teachers to be there to help with organizing students and concert day logistics that you are often too busy to handle yourself. I have learned that it is helpful to work together with these important people FIRST to make sure that your concert is successful from the inception and all of the physical logistics are a team effort.
Then, you can go about planning what music to include at the concert.
Before the concert
It seems pretty obvious that you need to give yourself and your students an adequate amount of time to prepare the repertoire you have picked out. The logistics I often overlooked in the beginning of my career was the behavior I expected during the concert. I learned quickly that if I didn’t plan and teach my expectations that I got a variety of other behaviors that I did not expect! That means, as part of my concert preparation, I made sure students knew the logistics of what their bodies should look like, how to get on and off the risers, what should be happening between songs, what should happen when things do not go as expected, and so on. Maybe this goes back to that old adage of practice makes perfect or practice, practice, practice. Either way, part of practicing needs to be concert etiquette.
Thinking through these logistics should also include audience etiquette. The tricky part is communicating your expectations to audience members. Some popular ideas might be:
- Include them in your program
- Include them in the announcements you give at the beginning of the concert
- Have students perform a poem or rap including the expectations
- Create a bulletin board or video presentation for audience members to view while they wait for the concert to begin
I have found it super helpful to explicitly teach appropriate audience etiquette to the other students at my school who are NOT performing in the concert. Not only do they get to use these skills in many situations during the year, but I have found that my students then teach their families what is expected. I have heard my students say things like “Dad, you can’t talk while they are singing!” or “We don’t clap until Ms. Miller puts her hands down.” Maybe it's a little covert but it certainly helps get the message out!
For the concert
There are just so many logistics to think about for the concert! I have found it so helpful to write down as many details as I can so others can help me out on the day of the event. For instance, I always create a document like this to help teachers know how students will enter and exit the risers along with what order they need to be lined up in when they arrive at the venue. This takes 2 big details off of my plate and allows others to help out!
I also like to make sure that the concert setup is something that students are familiar with, especially if you can’t be in your performing venue before the big day. I do this by redesigning my classroom for a short time to look like the stage we will be performing on. I set up risers. I set up large instruments the way they will look on the stage. I gather and lay out other items students might need (like small unpitched percussion instruments, props, etc.) right where they will find them during the concert. Although this can sometimes be a pain for the grade levels you teach in your room that are not performing, it is well worth the inconvenience to make sure your performing students know what to expect. Plus--everything you need to bring with you is all set up and in one place so you do not have to worry about forgetting anything you need for the concert.
Lastly, I try to help audience members attending the concert by sending out written communication with plenty of time to plan. This includes what time students need to be there, what time doors will open, what students need to be wearing and I include information on where their students will be on stage. I eman, did a concert really happen if parents do not get the perfect camera shot!?! This can also be posted for families to see again before they pick the perfect viewing spot on concert night.
After the concert
A concert is a big event! With all the work and attention to detail you paid when preparing for all of the logistics, do not forget to celebrate! You deserve to feel good and so do students! Maybe this is doing something fun. Maybe it is watching and evaluating how the concert went to plan for future performances. Just make sure you take time to acknowledge the awesome learning that occurred for everyone!
And, once the celebration is over, make sure you save all the things! There are many times you can reuse or update concert preparations you have already created in future concerts. Find a system that helps you organize the repertoire you used along with all of the other details, too! Your future self will thank you for having a plan for these logistics.