The holidays tend to bring out a mixed bag of emotions in music educators. It’s a time of year when hard work and dedication transforms into a (hopefully) amazing concert, but preparing for a big performance also brings a myriad of stresses and things to do in a season that already stretches the bandwidth of most non-musical people. But for as difficult the holiday season can be for music educators, there are a few sensible planning tips we can embrace far in advance that will help our holiday concerts run smoothly. Here are a few to consider:
Start planning far in advance and delegate tasks
According to music specialist Denise Gagné, planning far in advance and delegating concert-related responsibilities to others are things that will help ease the overall burden on a music educator during the holiday season. Realistically, handling each and every aspect of a holiday concert is something you can’t––and shouldn’t––do. Luckily, members of your school’s staff and parents are here to help. As early as you’re able to, set up a staff and/or parent meeting and designate tasks for others to take on such as costume design, someone to operate the sound system, scene setup and cleanup, etc. You’ll notice that none of these tasks are musical in nature. By getting extra help with the non-musical aspects of your show, you’ll be able to focus on making your holiday concert shine. Every event is different, but depending on the size of your concert, you might need upwards of 10-20 volunteers to step in and assist. Arranging the task-delegation aspect of your holiday concert will be exponentially easier the sooner you plan it.
Integrate concert repertoire into daily curriculum
Time is a music educator’s most important commodity, especially when a holiday concert is just around the corner. Jennifer Boice, a Maryland-based music educator, recommends making the most of every given opportunity for concert preparation in the classroom by integrating concert repertoire into daily curriculum. “Because I teach in elementary school, I see my students only once a week. This limited amount of time makes it essential to use every opportunity to use the concert repertoire in music instruction. The songs and activities I teach correlate directly with my performance program. I try to plan the programs well in advance so I can teach the concepts in the curriculum and prepare for performance at the same time.”
Communicate goals with your classroom
You’ll have a much easier time reaching your holiday concert goals if you make the effort to communicate them with your students over and over again. Create a reasonable list of actionable goals for your holiday concert and share them with your students. To get the most out of your holiday concert experience, these goals should be themed around the musical concepts you’re tasked with teaching your students during the fall season.
Make sure instruments are inspected
One broken instrument can turn an otherwise great concert into a challenging event to oversee and listen to. Depending on the age of your students, either you or them will need to thoroughly inspect their instruments before the show. Instruments should be tuned and in playable condition before the big show. This point might be a little obvious for seasoned music educators, but skipping this step could end up causing major but preventable issues during your concert.
Don’t take on the weight of the world
Holiday concerts require a massive effort on the part of music educators. Interestingly enough, some advice you probably tell your students applies here: don’t obsess over perfection. You can do everything to the best of your ability to prepare for a holiday concert and still experience problems during the show. Don’t take it personally. Overseeing something as complex as a holiday concert requires you to work with and rely on a large group of people, and people aren’t perfect. You’ll end up enjoying the experience and potentially performing much better if you can relax, not take yourself too seriously, and show humility and grace to those around you. The best you can do is all you’re expected and able to give, and this is also what you should expect from the musicians, staff, and volunteers you work with. By trying to have fun and bringing a lighthearted attitude to your holiday concert, you’ll have the best chance at reigning in expectations and running a successful concert.
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