The End of Year Concert – Celebration or Chaos?
Our students have been working hard all year, so we are putting on a concert to showcase their abilities. There are always mixed feelings about the end of year concert.
From the parent’s point of view, they really only want to hear their child play and then leave. A child playing a 10 second rendition of Hot Cross Buns doesn’t justify sitting through hours of other kids’ mind-numbing performances. Of course, it’s the end of the year and there are better things to do. Let’s face it the concerts are quite boring for some parents and often it is a struggle to get them to come at all – no matter how much their children want them to come.
Children get nervous and some would rather be anywhere else but on stage and who can blame them? They are all alone and feel very exposed. Besides, playing one piece of music doesn’t justify being there all night when there are upcoming exams and social activities to attend. They struggle to sit still and remain alert for the rest of the concert. The concerts can be terrifying before they go on stage and boring after. It’s not always a great experience.
Us, Guitar Teachers
Despite all of our preparation and hard work, there is still the possibility we may be let down. Children with key parts to play may just not show up and parents often leave after their child has played and won’t stay until the finish.
Does that sound somewhat familiar? In previous years this is what I was faced with until I decided to turn it around put on a show that people would want to attend to. Here is what I did:
Everyone on Stage
I had all the performers on stage from start to finish. This worked for me in two ways. It alleviated the time it took for performers to get into position and no child felt nervous or exposed as they were all there together.
As a lot of my students play the same pieces, any child who could play a piece did so. I tried to roughly have the performers sitting together depending on the pieces they were about to play but sometimes they were sitting on the other side of the room. Surprisingly, that did not present a problem. This meant that parents could watch their children play a number of pieces and could justify the time they spent at the concert.
Different Abilities – No Problem
There were various ability levels involved. Those who were more advanced would start with the harder pieces, often on their own. They would continue to play as we worked our way toward the beginning of the repertoire and were joined by other students as we approached their ability level.
To ensure that everybody was involved right up until the end, all students played the same piece as a finale. Last year, the piece was Wild Thing.
Surprise Mum and Dad!
During the year I asked my students about their parents’ singing habits. Some said they liked to sing in the car, or the shower, while making the dinner or doing the housework. One said his Mum sings but only in her native language. All children were sworn to secrecy about what we had planned for them. I spent only a few dollars and bought some shower caps, spatulas, and feather dusters. Depending on what singing habit their children said they had, parents were presented with the appropriate prop and some embarrassing comments which publicly exposed their singing habits – guess who started to pay attention? Their children were delighted. I had printed the words to Wild Thing in large text for all the parents to see and had it translated to Punjabi for the mother who only sang in her native language. The children played and the parents sang.
It was a wonderful night that engaged parents and children and was a fantastic way to celebrate all of the students’ hard work. For me end of year concerts are now what they are supposed to be - a celebration, rather than dreaded chaos.
Author: Bryce Leader
Bryce is a teacher trained conservatorium graduate who has been teaching guitar since 1978.