Last night, I led my first-ever elementary school music performances. I have led many successful middle and high school band and orchestra concerts, but this was my first elementary school “chorus” concert. It was only 5th graders. In this depressed part of town, we had exactly 50% of the students attend the concert. Only half of the kids showed up? I couldn’t believe it! BUT, their teachers were ecstatic — these ladies, who know the kids much better than I — didn’t expect that good of a turn out. Interesting. Is there a way to increase that in the future?
Having this event was a chore in the making, though. These kids haven’t had a public performance for several years. We certainly had to make some accommodations to pull off the event. First, I let them use lyric sheets and not feel the pressure memorizing. Secondly, using standard choral music certainly didn’t go over well with this group. So, we did one “choral” piece and two popular pieces (with very inspirational lyrics).
The kids, who are the rowdiest bunch of 10-year olds, really stepped up for the occasion. They said things like, “I’m so nervous!” And, then into the multipurpose room they went — poised and respectful — to an awaiting and expectant (nearly) full house! The kids had a good time, they sang purposefully, and they audience responded fully and exuberantly. Kids smiled and stayed after to have pictures taken.
For lifelong music engagement – performing, creating, playing – we need to let go of the rules sometimes so kids can figure it out. Thanks for a good effort to those 5th graders. Thanks to the families of 50% of the class for bringing them and for being there to support them.
Now, let’s see if the excitement will spread to 75% participation in the spring…