I’m sure I’m not the only music teacher who is feeling a little overwhelmed by preparations for looming winter concerts. Choosing and rehearsing repertoire is starting to seem like the easy part as I look at my to-do list of logistics to arrange, details to plan, and people to contact in order to make my students’ performance a success. In my rural school district, the winter concert is a huge community event, and it’s easy to feel alone in my planning as the only elementary music teacher in the district. I suspect that concert preparation is just as stressful no matter where you teach. This is the perfect time of year for music teachers to practice the very important skill of delegating.
• Collaborative Teaching: Classroom teachers are often happy to support their students’ concert preparations by connecting concert repertoire to content in their classrooms. Maybe they’re teaching a unit on immigration that connects to your concert theme of holidays around the world. Or maybe they’re reading a story about someone who reached a goal through hard work that can be connected to students working toward their goal of a successful concert. When you are aware of what other teachers are teaching your students, connecting content can benefit teachers and students.
• Extra Practice: Some teachers welcome the opportunity to help students practice their concert music during spare minutes in their day, whether they’re actively rehearsing or playing recordings of concert songs as background music during work time. Not all teachers will be able to incorporate concert music into their classrooms, but it can be worthwhile to make recordings and lyrics sheets available to those who are able to bring the music into their classes. Every little bit of extra practice can help!
• Supervision: Teachers are often required to supervise students during concerts. They might also be willing to help students line up, guide students on and off risers, and monitor student behaviors during the performance.
• Phy. Ed Teacher: Elementary concerts are often held in the school gym, in which case some collaboration with the phy. ed teacher will be necessary. He or she might be willing to help schedule, supervise, and assist during rehearsals and performances.
• Art Teacher: I’ve been lucky to work with some very supportive art teachers who have offered their own or their students’ help with props, set design, costumes, and program design. My school has a tradition of displaying an art show just outside of the gym where the concert is held. A collaborative presentation of student work in music and art can benefit both programs.
Office Staff and Custodians
• Advertising: The office staff at many schools takes responsibility for promoting school events, such as concerts. Find out if concert information can be posted in the student/parent handbook, in a school newsletter, or on a school sign. The office staff might also be willing to contact local newspapers or events websites.
• Copying: Preparing for a concert seems to require a lot of photocopying. The staff in some school offices will copy and distribute notes to be sent home to parents, and print and fold programs. This may not be the protocol in all schools, but because these tasks are so time-consuming, it’s worthwhile to find out what concert tasks the office staff might consider part of their workload.
• Set-Up: New teachers are always advised to make friends with the custodians as soon as possible, and concert season is a time when those good working relationships can make life for a music teacher much easier. Custodians can be hugely helpful with the set-up of risers, bleachers, chairs, and so much more.
• Decorating, Costumes, and Props: Many parents welcome opportunities to help the music program during concert season. Some might enjoy helping with set-up and decoration of the stage before the concert. Others might be able to provide props or make costumes.
• How to Connect: Connecting with parents can be the biggest challenge. Try sending notes home, emailing, posting on social media, writing a notice in the school newsletter, announcing volunteer opportunities in class, etc.
• Set-Up: Elementary students often really enjoy the responsibility of setting up audience chairs, arranging stage sets, and many other tasks that would be very time-consuming if done alone. Helping out with these behind-the-scenes jobs will give students a broader understanding of the different types of work that are necessary to put on a performance event, and will give them more ownership of their concert.
• Extra Elements: There are a lot of ways to enliven an elementary performance with instruments, additional student-composed verses, and movements. Teachers have a little less to plan themselves and students enjoy creating their own accompaniments, lyrics, and choreography.
• Announcers: Students love being announcers for concerts, giving information about the pieces performed, or explaining the process through which they learned the music. Older elementary students might even be able to research the concert music to write their own scripts.
Preparing for a concert is hard and stressful work, but this lists only some of the people in a school community who might be happy to help. It can be challenging for me to delegate tasks that will affect my students’ big performance, but it’s always worthwhile. Sharing the work doesn’t only reduce a music teacher’s stress, but builds collaborative partnerships, introduces new perspectives and influences into the performance, and creates a true community event. Best of luck this concert season, music teachers!