Music Room Ramblings

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Program Dilemma

You may be required/asked to provide programs on a regular basis for PTA meetings or other functions. Be careful about always saying, YES. New teachers often fall into this trap and once begun, it’s hard to get out of it short of transferring to a new school!

Programs are great and can be a wonderful learning experience for your students. But do not sacrifice the integrity of your music education program to rehearse. I discovered that I needed to gently teach the adults—administrators, teachers, parents—what music education is all about. Preparing for performance and performing all the time is not best for elementary age children, especially the younger ones. Educating adults was an on-going process. But the results were SUPPORT from all sides!!

The second and fourth nine weeks of my lesson plans involved program preparation for my students. Early in my career, back in the good old days (and they really were good), I was allowed to have a chorus of 3rd and 4th graders and they had a scheduled time for rehearsal during the day, once or twice each week. I know, that was to die for. But all good things come to an end, eventually, and a new principal totally axed that program.

Not to be daunted, I came up with an alternative plan. Granted, it was not as great, but it worked. Whenever I, or the teachers, wanted to do a program, I just worked the rehearsals into class time and made sure the songs I chose were age-appropriate, vocally enhancing for the child’s voice, and, here’s the tricky part, followed the standards! It can be done!

I was never big on perfection with children. I was, however, conscientious about having my students be successful and enjoy their experiences by performing with pride and dignity. To do this meant I had to know in plenty of time when a program was going to be so learning and rehearsing did not take over my lesson plans and so the students knew the songs well.

We learned and rehearsed songs for programs during 15-20 minutes of the regular one-hour music class times. Involve the classroom teachers! Keeping your classroom teachers informed as to what you’re doing is HUGE if you expect a successful outcome. I assigned some of the classroom teachers to be in charge of any drama or narration involved. They loved doing this and they were responsible for figuring out any extra rehearsal times needed for that. They were also responsible for back stage needs, costumes, and scenery.

The week of the performance, we combined all classes involved for two rehearsals in the cafeteria, the second was the final, dress rehearsal before the performance. The classroom teachers were enlisted for help with “crowd control.” I met with them beforehand and asked them to quietly remove any student who was not participating or who was being otherwise disruptive. I also had prepared the students beforehand that this would happen.

Even though it always involved hard work from moving risers, hauling Orff instruments, setting up the sound system (they never teach you about THAT in college), and working with wonderful custodians, the results are worth every minute!

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