Chat – Student Concerts
The following is an edited transcript of a Chatroom Session with Gordon Harvey, Simply Music’s Australian Manager. Gordon is one of our Senior Associate Teachers, and here he is discussing aspects of holding concerts for your students.
Gordon H (AUS) Kerry, you asked about doing a concert at times other than Xmas. I’ve done them mid-year, too. Every Xmas time I swear I’ll do two a year, but then i don’t get round to organizing it.
Kerry V (AUS) The other day you mentioned that Christmas/Holiday Season was a great time for people to share their ‘stuff’ at the concert and seemed to indicate that it was a great time of year to do this…… how has your experience been mid – year?
Gordon H (AUS) Any time is a great time. Mid-year has one advantage. Sometimes close to Christmas/Holiday Season, students may be busier than usual, and not as focused. Mid-year, everyone’s there, and no one has an excuse not to attend…but I’m always impressed by how willing people are to be part of it…
Helen H (AUS) Some questions…Do you need to hire a PA system; do you provide refreshments e.g. tea, coffee, kids drinks?
Gordon H (AUS) Helen, I have a simple PA, but I only use it for certain things, like students singing. I haven’t used a venue that requires any more need for a PA. Basic refreshments are valuable, especially if the weather’s hot. Sometimes students have gone to the trouble of bringing a plate, but it becomes more than just a concert then.
Kerry V (AUS) Would you suggest two concerts a year? Is it a lot of work to organize?
Gordon H (AUS) Two concerts a year is great, and organizing it becomes a simple enough task.
Kerry V (AUS) I thought that (when student numbers increase) that I will do a concert in the mid-term holidays.
Helen H (AUS) Do you give out certificates at concerts; When do you do the video playback – to students as a group or individually?
Gordon H (AUS I play the video back to students at their class. Re certificates…. I’d only hand them out at the concert if the timing was right, i.e. I wouldn’t delay it for the concert if it suited the class to receive them before they get their next level SHM.
Kerry V (AUS) Exactly, especially when they are aware of certificates by the 2nd level.
Helen H (AUS) Then wouldn’t that mean some students would get certificates at a concert and not others?
Kerry V (AUS) I suppose that is something that has to be worked out at each concert.
Gordon H (AUS) Most of the time, just about everyone in a class will attend the concert, but I’m saying I’d only hand out certificates if that were the case, and the timing matched the end of that level.
Helen H (AUS) When you say “class” I assume you’re talking groups?
Kerry V (AUS) Class is groups. I am sure that students who have received them before will understand the differences, especially if they are in between levels.
Gordon H (AUS) Everyone, group or private, can play at a concert, but the group has the advantage of being an ideal environment for rehearsal. You can do “mock” concerts. Even in private lessons, though, it’s good to encourage a sense of the concert environment.
Kerry V (AUS) Helen, have you had an experience with concerts for SM yet?
Helen H (AUS) Not for SM, though I MC’d the last “Music Lounge” at my son’s school and had 8 of my students perform 2-3 songs each there. One student has a great voice and sings professionally, so we used her PA and she and another “singing ” Mum sang the accompaniments – they were great!
Gordon, do you announce each student and what do you say about them?
Kerry V (AUS) Julie on Simpedia wrote that she had her students announce how long they have been learning and how many songs on the Playlist . I thought that was a good idea.
Gordon H (AUS) Yes, or you could include that in your introduction of them. The bit I like best….is getting the students to receive their acknowledgement, i.e. not rushing back to their seat as soon as they’re finished, but facing the audience and accepting their applause.
Kerry V (AUS) My idea of a concert is to have it run as easily and with at least fuss as possible…… then have everyone perform, feel proud of themselves and then we can get on with our work, or life again. Not to make it a pressure on myself to produce a production.
Gordon H (AUS) Like any other SM experience, it needs to be “win”. You want them to feel special, and that they’ve done a great job. If the atmosphere is too “formal”, it can feel intimidating, but if it’s too casual, it doesn’t reflect on you or the student as the significant experience that it is.
Kerry V (AUS) I feel it needs to be fun, easy and supportive of everyone involved. An easy, fun, fulfilling experience for all.
Yes, I understand what you are saying. I probably came across too harsh…. not meant to. It will be done well but not with too much fuss too. I feel I will burden myself if I try to “overdo ” it.
Gordon H (AUS) I wasn’t being critical, Kerry, I just wanted to emphasize that balance.
Kerry V (AUS) Yep, thanks.
Helen H (AUS) Do you get a list of numbers attending (besides performers) in advance so you can set up the right number of chairs, etc.?
Gordon H (AUS) I ask students to bring along as many people as they like, but to let me know if they expect more than 3 or 4, and I put out chairs for 4 people per performer but keep extras handy. That’s better than people seeing empty chairs, or being too scattered. You can also have kids on the floor at the front.
Kerry V (AUS) Do you pay for your venue? and how do you find one? Where is the best place to look?
Gordon H (AUS) Kerry, I hire a school hall. There are various factors you need to consider….including reasonable travel time, heating and cooling, sufficient seating, not being too cavernous, nice, high-tone environment, and especially a good piano.
Helen H (AUS)
How long in advance do you start students preparing and announce date, time, venue details?
Gordon H (AUS) Helen, I give LOTS of notice. I prepare students well before even deciding exact dates & venues. 2 months would be absolute minimum for this. At least 1-2 months notice of final dates.
Helen H (AUS) 2 months for students playing preparation you mean?
Gordon H (AUS) Yes. They need to choose their piece and focus on it well ahead of time. And have a second piece as backup, too.
Helen H (AUS) Do you have them play 1 or 2 pieces each?
Gordon H (AUS) I think it’s important for the concert to be no more than an hour or so long. If you don’t have too many performers, two songs would be good.
Kerry V (AUS) Would ‘mini’ concerts work within your groups? Such as after every 10 weeks. Or would 2 a year be sufficient?
Gordon H (AUS) It’s a really good idea to have a version of a public concert from time to time within the group. Every 10 weeks would be a nice time to set up a lesson where students prepare a song for everyone… present themselves like they would at the proper concert, and even invite a friend or family member or two to come along.
Kerry V (AUS) So really it can be unrestricted as long as it does not take up too much time and effort?
Gordon H (AUS) This would be in addition to the regular concert for your whole studio. It could be a “dress rehearsal”, but I wouldn’t use this to replace the full concert.
Kerry V (AUS) No, definitely not.
Helen H (AUS) Gordon, are there any other tips re organizing you’ve found particularly helpful?
Gordon H (AUS) You mean, organizing the venue etc or preparing the students?
Helen H (AUS) Both, also order of players e.g. from beginners to most experienced etc
Gordon H (AUS) Oh yes, It’s good to mix up the order, so there’s always some variety, and to avoid repetition… and to start and end with a bang. I.e. begin with a reasonably confident student who you’re sure will do well and play a good piece, to set the tone.
Helen H (AUS) What do you find works well for ending – I liked Julie’s idea for ending – is there any other way of supplying audience with words, other than for pd songs that wouldn’t breech copyright, eg projector
Gordon H (AUS) Projector is a good idea, or just choose a song that everyone knows.
Helen H (AUS) How do you usually end a concert?
Gordon H (AUS) A big finish is great. I do as Julie did, or if I have a student who has something special up his/her sleeve, like a duet, or playing and singing…. Or you can play something yourself.
Helen H (AUS) Do you usually play at concerts?
Gordon H (AUS) I have done, but these days our concerts feature students from several teachers, so I don’t single myself out. We could all play something, which would be great if it didn’t take too much time.