Five Ideas for a Better Beginning Band Winter Concert

If you teach beginning band like I do, you know that preparing for the Winter Concert is a huge challenge. Here are a few ideas to make that first performance a little better.

Music Staff Christmas Tree1. Use piano accompaniment. Let’s face it: A unison rendition of Hot Cross Buns and Jingle Bells is pretty frightening. Having a piano accompanist who can fill out the harmonies will go a long way in adding color. Ever since I started using a pianist about 10 years ago, I can’t imagine doing it any other way. Hint: Decide on your metronome markings in advance and tell your accompanist. Also, bring in the accompanist at least once before the performance to get the students used to the idea.

2. Feature various instrument groups at the beginning of each song. For example, the clarinets might play Mary Had a Little Lamb alone (with piano) first, and then the rest of the ensemble joins them on the repeat. Hint: Feature your strongest section on your most difficult piece, and a weaker section on an easier piece. For me, that usually means the trombones get featured on Hot Cross Buns, and the clarinets get featured on Jingle Bells.

3. Allow a student to introduce the songs to the audience. You’ll want to select a student with a good speaking voice, not necessarily your best musician. Rehearse their speech with them. (By speech, I mean “Our first song is Hot Cross Buns. It will feature the trumpets.”)

4. Give parents a moment to take pictures while the students are on stage with their instruments. I didn’t start doing this until I had children of my own, and my wife took a gazillion photos of every move they made. Now I appreciate the fact that parents want to capture the moment.

5. Make sure there is at least one administrator and another teacher at the performance. If your concert features more than one ensemble, you need someone to supervise the students who aren’t performing. And if a more serious incident occurs during the performance – like an injury, a squabble among parents, a power outage, etc. – you’ll need an administrator to manage that issue while you lead your performers.

Any other bright ideas? Share them here!

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Career Modifications: Changing from Elementary to Junior High

The district in which I teach recently had two junior high teachers leave their positions (for all the right reasons, on very good terms). I found myself faced with the decision about whether or not to apply for one of the vacancies and make the shift from elementary to junior high. This prompted a lot of soul searching for me about my career goals and future.

A bit of personal background, briefly: when I originally decided to pursue teaching, I intended to teach at the junior high level and to lead a jazz band. Ironically, I have taught high school and elementary, marching band, concert band, strings and orchestra, but I still have yet to fulfill either of my two original intentions. Meanwhile, I have been quite happy teaching at the elementary level.

So I am curious to hear from those of you who may have purposefully made a career modification in the past, like shifting between elementary, junior high, or high school. What factors played into your decision? Are you happy with your decision?

An Open Invitation to Elementary Music Teachers and Composers

This blog is focused on instrumental music teachers who specialize in working with young students. Future topic could include tips and techniques for various instruments, sharing ideas about curriculum and literature, motivating students, etc. I hope this blog will be a way for music teachers and composers to share ideas with each other. Feel free to contribute your thoughts about the profession.

Clink on the categories on the right side of this page to view posts and reply.

I’m an elementary music teacher and composer. I’m in the process of preparing a portfolio to present to various publishers of instrumental music. If you have thoughts about the process of composing and publishing, I would especially welcome your input.