One of the most important objectives of an elementary concert is to create an enjoyable performance experience for students. However, in order for a concert to be successful (and therefore, enjoyable), certain behaviors are expected from students. I find that my students are better able to remember and demonstrate proper performer etiquette if they know why it’s important. Behaviors can show an audience how the performers feel about their own roles and responsibilities in the concert, what they expect from the audience, and gratitude and respect for the people who came to see the concert.
My kindergarten through third grade students have been discussing performer etiquette this week, and they made lists of their own ideas about good concert behavior.
The Roles and Responsibilities of the Performer
“Don’t ask your mom or dad if you can go home. You came for a reason.”
Although we all want our students to have fun while performing, it can also be motivating for them to see a performance as a responsibility with which they are being entrusted. Students might get nervous, or might want to go home for some reason, but remembering their purpose and “job” can help them muster the courage to look confident and capable on stage.
“Don’t sing in a weird voice. If one person does it, it ruins the whole thing.”
In most elementary concerts, students are members of an ensemble, working together to make music. Therefore, unless there is a solo, no one voice should stick out of the group, especially if it’s a purposely attention-seeking “weird” voice.
“Listen to the teacher”
Because our upcoming concert will be their first, the first graders who suggested this rule hadn’t quite grasped that I won’t be giving verbal instructions during the performance. However, this piece of advice gave us an opportunity to discuss the ways in which I will be communicating with students, and how they can follow my directions without any of us saying a word.
Modeling Audience Behaviors
“No extra noise. Don’t go, “Blooogh!’”
Any extra noises from the stage will encourage the audience to make noises as well. If students are talking, the audience will do the same. If the students are restless and wiggly, the audience will be, too. And I hope we don’t find out what the audience will do if a student goes, “Blooogh!”
“Don’t goof around. One person will look, then more will look.”
Goofing around — whether making noise, moving around, making bunny ears, etc. — takes the audience’s attention off of what they are meant to be focusing on. Instead of listening to the music that the ensemble has worked so hard on and is looking forward to presenting, the audience will be paying attention to that student who is goofing around.
“Be careful where you look.”
The audience will look where the performers are looking, if their eyes are pointed anywhere other than at the audience. Students need to know that they have this power so they can use it to direct attention to soloists, speakers, or whoever else is meant to have the spotlight. They should also be aware that where they’re looking can distract the audience from looking at the performers who deserve the attention.
Show Gratitude and Respect for the Audience
“Be respectful. People are there for you.”
People who attend elementary school concerts are there because they care about and support the student performers. Showing gratitude to the audience with respectful behaviors is not only polite and appropriate, but also helps to connect performers and audience during a concert.
“Don’t hide so your parents can’t see you.”
Whether a student is belting out a solo or barely singing in the back row, his or her parents will want to see their child. Students may be nervous or self-conscious in a performance, but knowing that family members are there to see them and enjoy the show no matter how the performance goes can give them the courage to make sure they’re visible for some onstage photos.
“Say thank you by smiling.”
The easiest way for performers to show gratitude to their audience is to smile at them. Everyone is going to enjoy the concert more if the students look like they’re having a good time and are connecting with the people who came to see them with a smile.
A musician who feels a clear purpose and knows how to behave in a concert is likely to perform well and to have fun doing it. When students know how to behave, and more importantly, understand why those behaviors are important, the result will certainly follow one kindergartner’s advice: “Be awesome!”