Ruth C., Australia
I have always dreaded organizing Concerts ever since I started traditional teaching 24 years ago. Becoming a Simply Music teacher made the songs fantastic, but did not take away the struggles of organizing the annual Concerts.
This year, my husband suggested putting it back into the hands of each class, let them organize themselves as a group with what and how the items they wanted to play. Seeing the wisdom in that, I typed up a “Countdown Sheet” with suggestions on it eg, choose a leader who will keep you on track, choose items, get together out of class to practise, compose own intro’s, outro’s, play duets, accompany a family member playing or singing, ,how many weeks were left before the concert etc etc.(Getting together out of class is difficult for the majority of my students, as many of them live an hour’s drive north or south of me.)
I had an MC (one of the Dad’s) who introduced each group, and also announced the average number of lessons for that group and also the average number of songs they couldplay. Then he called up the items. In all I had 8 groups.
It worked extremely well. One group (Level 2) had all five of them up the front together. One of the Dad’s introduced them all. First one played Honey Dew with her Mum singing her own lyrics called Honey Bees, then she played the D note so the next student played Dreams Arrangement 2 in D. Then that student played the note G, so the next student played Minuet in G, and so on. In all they played 9 songs all linked together, flowing beautifully, finishing with a little 7 year old accompanying her Mum with Amazing Grace on the flute. And it was completely the ideas of the students.
The other groups had separate items. Because it is winter here and dark early, quite a few of them played in the dark while their classmates waved Glow Sticks. It looked spectacular. (I had some glow tape stuck on the underside of where the books sit on the piano so you could dimly see the keys.
I had rehearsals in my studio only the last two lessons before to the concert. Prior that I had no idea what they were planning. Yes, it did mean that we head about 6 versions of Honey Dew, and 4 renditions of
Fur Elise, but it didn’t really matter. With a total of 34 Items, it was great. Several students played their own compositions. I also played In My Eyes, in the dark, for a Level 7 student to do some Glow Stick movements,
(she had never done “movements” in her life before she told me.)
Afterwards we had supper and everyone was really friendly and relaxed.
I found that I could remain enthusiastic about the Concert right through. That was great.
I have also found that some students that were adamant that they were never going to perform in front
of an audience, DID for their class “Leader” whereas they wouldn’t for me!
The other thing I have noticed is the enormous increase in confidence observable in every student that
performed. My husband said that is because I have given them ownership.
Some of the other groups are already planning for the next concert!
It worked so well, that I will do it in the future.
Carrie L., Michigan
I had one as well and it was a great source for getting students excited about playing again and getting parents excited to see what the ones later on in levels could do.
I played my 2nd composition ever and while I felt it was faily simplistic, my students thought it was amazing.
I also got a new student from the recital as one adult taking lessons spoke to another adult that was there and convinced them to start taking lessons with her (she’d only taken one week).
While I have some things to tweak for next year it was a highlight of the year.
Terah W., Kansas
What a wonderful email! It has given me hope concerning ‘how to do the concert thing’ ! I have already decided I like the idea of the piano party concept and this just adds great fuel to the fire. I think that Neil’s courage to challenge the status quo where music is concerned is a good foundation for understanding that there are hundreds of ways to share our student’s talents than just the scary piano on the stage once a year. I really like the idea of handing over the event to the students.
Also, I loved the glow stick idea…was there any pattern of use for these, or were they just for fun? Not sure I understood the ‘movement’ part…I can imagine how the glow sticks alone would be encouragement for my littler students to get and feel involved.
Thanks so much again for sharing. I feel as tho I had been there as a spectator!!
Thanks from me also for the reinforcement from your blessed husband re the handing over of responsibility for group content etc.
Would you be willing to post the COUNTDOWN sheet please Ruth ?
I feel ready to post 2 different types of parties that have been running very well with my students in my second year of SM teaching.
I have a student body of around 28 now in geographically distant locations. and always tie an event in with level completion awards etc.
I am also aware that as my student body grows I may have to hold events more sustainably and sparcely to look after my own input and time.
One type of event is like yours – I handed over responsibility to 2 children- see attached sheet – they announced – everything – and the most recent one was morphed with a family gathering for first communion.
Went beautifully – pin -drop silence in the room from all the relatives as the kids played.
I also have the pleasure of being in a rural location where people know one another and share common lifestyle factors.
One of my adult students has come up with a Piano Club (not the SM one) idea 5 months ago (copying from the Book Club idea where on a regular basis homes host a book discussion – now piano event- see attachment) The host gets to invite a couple of extras from her/his own family or community a neighbour or a good local pianist to inspire.
It is now held every second month people are offering their homes in a year’s schedule.
I hand out maps to people during lessons so they can find the farm/home, and talk /work through performing content, liase with the host re activities on the night, and keep an eye on the diversity of performance (creative, arr. duets, FDN etc.) Also hand-out certificates as appropriate on the night and always perform myself in some way.Last time I role-modelled my challenge of committing Rondo Alla Turka to memory – my party piece for years but huge for me to perform by memory using SM strategies..
I am particularly excited about this Piano Club idea because it was student initiated , organised and lead – this feels powerful to me.
But I put in the hard yards organising parties last year previous to her idea dropping in so she had a model to work from creatively.
Ruth C., Australia
There was no set pattern for the glow sticks movements, I tried to encourage the students during the rehearsal that:-
“This is a blues, so strong movements, perhaps decisive, movements.”
Now this is a soft, gentle song, how about some flowing swirls…..”
But on the night they just did what they felt like, and it was not necessarily in time with the others up the front, but it really did not matter.
I am trying to give my students permission to make mistakes,do it “badly” and mess it up up the front and it is still OK. I find I have to give that permission. Then they usually do well.
Attached is the Countdown to Concert file.
Sheet 1 and 2 is what I gave each student.
Sheet 1 was their “Countdown” with some ideas.
Sheet 2 was the form they had to fill out to give to me
during the second to last week before the concert.
2 copies, one for me and one for the MC.
Sheet 3 I kept and cut up and put the applicable section
up on my notice board each week (printed on bright yellow
so everyone would see it!)
If you would like to use my (and my husband’s) ideas, feel free,
we are happy to share
COUNTDOWN TO CONCERT 19th JUNE 2010
Contact Person _______________ Phone Notes
STEP 1 – ORGANISING 5 WEEKS TILL CONCERT WEEK
Choose a “Leader” who will “Crack the Whip” and keep you all on track and on schedule!
Choose possible Items for each person.
Anything is possible, so think about two, or more people playing together on the different instruments
Consider inviting a Guest Artist to accompany.(Maybe a friend or relative)
Maybe someone to dance, or mime to illustrate the music you will play.
Remember in June it will be dark early, so Glow in the Dark items will be spectacular
If you do that, start practising in the dark!!!!!
Figure out when and where to Rehearse as duos, or trios, or groups etc.
Please keep it all G rated, Thanks
STEP 2 – REHEARSALS 4 WEEKS TILL CONCERT WEEK Notes
Rehearsing and evaluating if the songs you chose are OK to perform.
Compose Introductions and Endings to the songs. Even another verse in the middle!
Practising Duets together, Rehearse with the Soloist, Rehearse with danceer, Mimer,
You can even play your own composition.
Decide if you want one of you to be the spokesperson etc.
STEP 3 – REHEARSALS 3 WEEKS TILL CONCERT WEEK Notes
Rehearse and rehearse!! Sometimes on your own, sometimes with the other/s
The songs will be sounding good by now, so some fine-tuning:-
Start & stop together, Keep in time with each other, Listen to each other.
STEP 4 – REHEARSALS 2 WEEKS TILL CONCERT WEEK Notes
Rehearse and rehearse You will know the songs much better now, so you can start to enjoy them
Decide in what order you want your group’s items. Write them on the sheet
STEP 5 – HAND 2 COPIES 1 WEEK TILL CONCERT WEEK Notes
OF PROGRAM TO RUTH. The program for your team with all the items in the order you want them to happen.
Also describe each item eg if it is a solo, duet, accompaniment, etc
If you are accompanying please give the name of your singer, dancer, or mime artist.
Average No of Lessons Find the average number of lessons your group has had and write it on your program
Average No of Songs Find the average number of songs that your group can play and write it on your sheet
Hand Two Copies of your program to Ruth please
STEP 6 – PERFORMANCE THIS IS CONCERT WEEK! Notes
WELL DONE. If you messit up, just plough on regardless.It matters more that you had a go!
Consider the audience as “cabbages” and they won’t even notice you hashed it.
Original discussion started May 27, 2011