Organize your concert planning and preparation with checklists and best practices. Here are tips on choosing the music, concert themes, teaching timelines, and logistics.
When to Begin Teaching the Music
Please take the POLL below! Thanks to all who participate!
Semester I: Early to mid-October (8 or more weeks out) is currently winning in the poll! Don’t wait until after Halloween!
Semester II: Considering the answers from Semester I, you want to have 8 or more weeks for your students to learn and memorize their music.
- Mid-May concerts-begin at least by early March
- Mid-April concerts-begin at least by early February
- Choosing the music. How to choose the music?
- When to begin learning the music-you want your music memorized a week before the concert.
- Physical location
- Will your program have a theme or random songs?
- How many songs? If a song is 2 minutes in length, then 10 songs are about 20 minutes of minutes. How long for transitions between groups? Think in those terms. A typical length for a concert is 45 minutes.
- Binder-put your music in a binder to keep it all in one place. Put all of your notes in there too so you have a record of what you did to refer to for the next concert.
- Transitions-as one group exits and the next enters, will you have transition performances? piano solo, background music, audience sing-a-long, or nothing
- Sound system-this is so different for each school.
- Student logistics
- Where will students wait before and after they perform?
- Riser etiquette-how to get on and off the risers and how to stand on the risers once you are on them. Also, how much spacing between students.
- I always created “riser spots” in my classroom so I did not have to do it during on stage rehearsal time. I had kids get in one long line by height, tall to short, and then I divided the number by 4. (3 rows on the risers and then one on the floor). A class of 24 then will have 6 to a row. The first 6 students become the back row, next six the third row, etc. Then I write down the names so I have a record for myself and for the classroom teacher if they are going to help me.
- I figured riser spots a couple of weeks before the performance so that in music class we’d often practice getting in our riser spots and get used to singing in that configuration.
- I taught at a school that had only about 25% participation in after-school concerts. The above idea of riser spots was great for our performance during the day, but was useless that night when so few showed up. My great PE teacher friend was always there backstage to place the attending kids in height order. The curtains would open and I never knew who would be there, but they always looked fabulous because of my PE buddy.
- if you create paper programs, who will hand them out or where will they be placed for the audience to pick up.
- you must figure out if you are going to have rehearsals with individual classes, grade levels, or the entire performing group.
- you must figure out whether you are going to have students wear school uniforms, dress up outfits, or a certain color top and bottom.
- To parents-when, where, and what time for the concert and what their child should wear. Ask Ts to put the info in their weekly newsletters as well.
- To teachers-are they helping with logistics the day/night of the program. Give them plenty of information about what to do.
- To admin-I would meet with my admin and give them a rundown of my plan for the day/night and ask them any questions.
- To custodians-Are they helping with setup, tear down, clean up. Make sure you have clearly communicated to them.
- At the concert-I make a final list of what I need right there in front of me such as my binder, a music stand for my binder, my computer, and always a reminder to always turn off notifications on my phone and computer.
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Choosing The Music
These thoughts are MY opinions and experience and not written in stone for you.
Determining Who Sings
A typical program is about 45 minutes in length. Songs can last between about 45 seconds up to 2:30. But if your average song is 2 minutes, you would need 22 songs for that length of time. WHAT? If people only knew.
Of course, there will be some transition time but really, an audience doesn’t want to watch too many minutes of kids getting on and off the stage or listening to narration. So if you need 18 songs, how are you going to do it?
If you teach at a school with large grade levels, you will probably have grade level concerts so “The Third Grade Spring Concert!” You might not have room for all the third grade at once so you would divide the songs by the number of performing “groups” that you would use. The same idea is true if your school is smaller and you have more grade levels at one time so “The K-2 Spring Concert!” Maybe then kinders would sing together, then grade 1, and grade 2, so three groups. If you have 3 performing “groups” and if each group sang 5 or 6 songs, you’d be good to go.
Music selection & themes
Themes can be easier because it helps with song selection, what you ask your students to wear, and decorations. The theme should be broad enough to let you find the songs you need. If it’s too narrow (Frogs Are Fun), it’s going to be hard to find enough songs.
The Song Database page has some common themes and titles within the Google slide database and also below it on the page.
No theme though is a perfectly great way to include lots of activities that you’ve been doing in class. “The Spring Concert” could have singing, bucket drumming, recorders, ukes, etc. with a wide variety of songs and pieces and no over-arching theme.
Tips & Tricks to think about
These were my go-to tricks that might help you.
- Start the music EARLY. If I had a December concert, I started the end of September/early October. Kids get bored with songs, but once they know them, you can always teach something else and then come back to the songs closer to concert time. There’s nothing worse than feeling like the kids aren’t going to be ready and if you wait and take it down to the wire, I can guarantee this will happen-
- a grade level will go on a field trip
- a grade level has been scheduled for their annual human growth talk
- the teacher has a special visitor in to show the class about reptiles
- picture day
- makeup picture day
- an all-school assembly program during your class time
- Find your music through Facebook Music Group searches, my database (linked above), MK8, old textbook series (they have master indexes by subject, genre, etc), YouTube (search “elementary concert”), online music stores (JW Pepper, Sheetmusic Plus)
- Accompaniment Tracks-MK8, online stores (the mp3s are usually expensive, but…), search Apple music for “instrumental” or “karaoke”
- Create your own accompaniment tracks using Noteflight. Here’s a tutorial to get started. Or use GarageBand, Soundtrap, Bandlab.
- Get an accompanist
- Let kids accompany on ukuleles
- Mass Groups-I always liked to have as many kids as possible performing so I had risers on the stage and on the floor so I could get 4 classes singing together. This made for a gorgeous big sound and if you had that one class that didn’t know the music as well as the others, it didn’t matter.
- One Extra Song-In the early stages, if possible, teach/introduce one song MORE than you think you’ll need. After a couple of weeks, you’ll find that there’s one song that just isn’t working and you can just let that one disappear and go with the ones that are proving to be better and stronger.
- Student Choice-Do NOT let the kids pick the songs because one class will pick Song A and the other will pick Song B and then you’ll be in a pickle. If a class is performing by themselves, then you have the same problem because half the class will want Song A and half will want Song B. I always found it a no-win situation.
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