Focus on the journey, not the destination.
Joy is found not in finishing an activity, but in doing it.
It is better to travel well than to arrive.
To a music educator at this time of year, these quotes take on a new meaning in the context of CONCERT SEASON!! Many music teachers are either expected to, or contractually obligated to produce both a holiday concert and spring concert. For many the past months have been the "journey" portion of the music process; the practicing done alone, in small groups, and in large group situations. The "destination" portion of the music process begins now in the holiday season, with the holiday concert.
Some music educators are totally wrapped up in the final product...that the sound (and look) of their group be as close to perfect as possible. Some teachers are more focused on the rehearsal process, figuring that if the practice was done correctly, the concert will follow naturally. As with most of my perspectives on music education, I take a balanced approach. Here are my thoughts on concert season.
1. Practice as much as possible. I schedule my rehearsals on days that we rarely have a vacation day (Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays). In my climate, as we move into the winter season, that gets a little difficult because we will have snow days and snow delays, both of which cancel chorus rehearsals.
2. Make rehearsals fun...incorporate movements, fun warm-ups, and extra activities.
3. Practice a lot of different music in a rehearsal. Attention spans in elementary school are short. We've been rehearsing our spring concert music right along with our holiday concert music since our very first rehearsal, just so I can change it up and not burn them out with the same few songs.
4. In a concert situation, mistakes will happen. Prepare the kids for this fact so that they will not be taken by surprise and laugh or point at a peer. Remind them that we must be actors/actresses and pretend that a mistake never happened, and just carry on as usual. If we do not make a big deal out of small mistakes, they are soon forgotten.
5. Some audiences are tougher than others. We generally perform for two groups: the student body and faculty of our school, and parents/grandparents/other family. Performing for peers is always more difficult than performing for your family, because the family loves you no matter what happens! My advice for both audiences is the same: "Have fun, and they will have fun listening and watching you." Of course, my students need to be reminded about what concert-appropriate fun looks like/sounds like, but most of the time this helps them to loosen up and enjoy the experience more.
6. Take extra time and care to be sure that your special needs students know what to expect. A concert situation can be an overwhelming experience for some students on the autism spectrum, as well as other special need students you may include in your group. Walk and talk your student through the process several times so they are sure of what to expect. Place them in close proximity to you as you are directing, if possible. Plan ahead with a fellow staff member in the audience an "escape plan" for the student if the concert becomes becomes too much for them to handle.