The first concert is a huge milestone for every new music teacher, and it’s never too soon to start getting ready! Follow our step-by-step guide, broken down from months before the concert to the day of, to plan a successful performance and minimize stress.
Over One Month Before
Publicize the Concert
Confirm that the upcoming concert is listed on your school’s events calendar. Most schools publish their calendars during the previous school year or over the summer, so it’s important to confirm the date early to avoid conflicts with other functions.
Many schools have a sign out front with a message board, which could be an excellent place to list the concert date and time as it gets closer. If you have room in your budget, eye-catching banners and lawn signs are great ways to spread the word. To raise awareness in the greater community, consider reaching out to local websites or newspapers.
Teach Concert Etiquette
When it comes to proper behavior during a performance, students and audiences alike will benefit from some education. We recommend teaching concert etiquette throughout the year.
Attend Other Schools’ Concerts
Attending other schools’ concerts can be a great source of inspiration. You’ll have the opportunity to learn from their examples, both in terms of what they do well and where they could use improvement. Plus, they’re opportunities to network with local music educators.
Coordinate with Extra Personnel
If accompanists or other additional players will be part of your performance, it’s best to coordinate with them well in advance. If possible, your students should have the opportunity to meet and rehearse with them at least once prior to the concert. Make sure that these musicians have their parts and anything else that they may need.
One Month Before
Secure All Necessary Materials
Will students perform on the stage in your school’s auditorium, or in a gym or other multipurpose space? If it’s the latter, you may need portable equipment, such as risers or an acoustical shell. Give yourself some peace of mind by making a list and placing an order well ahead of time.
Start Creating the Program
While you don’t need to have every detail confirmed just yet, beginning the process with a few weeks of lead time will make it much easier to accommodate potential changes. Look at examples from previous years for inspiration.
Plan for Refreshments
Students may be coming straight from sports practices or other extracurricular activities to the concert, meaning that they don’t have time to stop at home for dinner—and selling refreshments during intermission and the post-concert reception is a great fundraiser. Coordinate with parent volunteers to supply and distribute food and drinks.
Consider Coordinating Arrival Music
It’s a nice touch to have small instrumental ensembles or keyboard players perform in the foyer as audience members arrive. Doing so both helps to set the tone and provides additional performance opportunities for your more advanced students.
Two Weeks Before
At the concert, you’ll want to introduce yourself and say a few words about each piece. Make sure to thank the district for supporting the music program as well as your colleagues, custodians, and parents for making the concert possible. Put some talking points together and practice a few times in front of friends, family, or a mirror to ease your nerves.
Students and school administrators may give remarks during the concert as well. Some directors have students read comments between ensembles or pieces, which both helps to build their confidence and pleases parents. If you know ahead of time that the school principal or another administrator will speak, provide that individual with a script.
What time do students need to arrive? What’s the dress code? Other than their music, their instruments, and themselves, is there anything they need to bring? Announce these key details during class and send home a flyer. Since there will inevitably be parents who find out about the concert the day of, give school office staff copies of your flyer so that they can answer questions.
Build in time during rehearsals in the final weeks before the concert to practice transitions between ensembles, percussionists, soloists, and so on. Practice at more than one rehearsal so that every student has a chance to be present.
Have a Contingency Plan
Emergencies happen! Communicate with other music department staff and line up a backup conductor—just in case.
One Week Before
Decide What You’ll Wear (and Break It In)
Amidst all the chaos of planning a concert, it’s easy to forget that you need something to wear! One week before the performance, take the time to choose your outfit. Black is always a safe bet. Make sure you can move comfortably and, since conducting involves having your back to the audience, that you’re aware of how it looks from behind.
Now’s the time to hit “print” on the concert programs! Don’t hesitate to ask for help: get someone you trust to proofread and have parent volunteers assist with any folding or stapling.
Prepare Your Pre-Concert Regime
Think about what will need to happen between students’ arrival and the start of the performance, then create a timestamped schedule. Budget time for warm-ups, microphone checks, apparel checks (see below), and bathroom breaks. If you have a few extra minutes, mindfulness exercises can be a great help to both teachers and students.
Coordinate with Custodial Staff and Stage Crew
Get in touch with everyone involved in running house sound and lights. Supply them with the concert schedule and exchange phone numbers.
The Day of the Concert
Arrive Early and Stay Late
We probably don’t need to tell you this, but we’ll say it nonetheless: don’t make any other plans for the evening of your concert. Arriving early to prepare everyone for the performance is essential, and the post-concert reception is an opportunity to build relationships with students’ families.
Bring an Emergency Kit
You can never be too prepared! Set aside extra reeds, mutes, strings, valve oil, and so on for musicians in need.
Check Everyone’s Apparel
Before the performance begins, confirm that everyone is attired properly (or enlist volunteers to do so). Is jewelry appropriate? Is each student wearing appropriate shoes and socks? Is anyone’s clothing improperly fitting or ripped? There should be no surprises when students walk out on stage.
Bonus: After the Concert
Take Time to Reflect
While the concert is still fresh in your mind, record your thoughts and impressions. What went well? What will you do differently next time? Make note of any feedback you receive from others.
Thank Everyone Who Was Involved
You did it! You got through the very first concert of your teaching career—and you didn’t do it alone. Don’t forget to thank everyone who helped to make the concert happen, including parents, administrators, and custodial staff.
Proper planning is key to pulling off a successful first concert. Take a few small steps each week, and you’ll be well prepared by showtime.