Watching when other groups perform
Here is Part 1 of the compilation. Thank you again to all who contributed. I
originally asked the list if their students are permitted to watch the rest of the
performing groups when not performing. At my school, I had not been permitted to
let my students watch, but to have them sit in the classroom during the concert
when not performing. To create space in the crowded multipurpose room, the
administration decided to give tickets to the families--two per choir student, and
two per instrumental student. If we wanted our students to sit in the concert,
they would have to use a ticket. I opted to have my students watch the concert,
which meant that they only got one ticket per family. Some parents didn't go,
though, so extras went to other families. The band director opted to keep his kids
in the classroom, giving two per family. Hopefully we'll have our concerts on
separate nights next year, saving more space. Thanks again for the ideas!
Well, we're a bit back-woods here; our "performance space" is usually the
gymnasium, and we just pack everybody in, ignoring fire codes and surviving the
over-heated atmosphere. May gets quite warm.
I work in a 5A (large) district in Texas. Each of our three Middle Schools and our
High School allow their choirs to watch the performances of the other choirs as all
our directors feel it is beneficial for students to not only hear the up and
coming, as well as the advanced
groups. It also helps instruct and apply lessons regarding audience etiquette to
students. Finally, our state standards are met in the "Evaluation and Critique" of
live performances. We make sure that each concert is recorded for post-performance
evaluation, but having the kids present throughout the concert provides them the
opportunity to view the performance LIVE.
I teach at a 7-8 middle school (my wife was the director before me). I have 6
choirs and divide the groups up so that 3 groups perform on each concert
throughout the year (a necessity because of the number of students in the
program). I have always (and my wife did too) had the other choirs that weren't
performing sit in the audience and watch the other groups. There is a reserved
area for them to sit when not performing. Concerts are held in the cafeteria and
it is always packed. Parents know if they don't want to stand, they will need to
get there early. You are right, it is important for them to watch each other so
they can learn from and support the other groups. The band at my school does the
same thing as do all the other middle schools in our district.
We are also beginning to have this "challenge" at some of our concerts. While it
isn't the same as being in the theatre and watching a performance, when we are
fairly certain the audience will be SRO, we do a live-feed from a video camera to
our commons area where a projector shows the concert on a large screen. It isn't
ideal, but it's better than sitting in a classroom doing some assignment after a
performance. Also for these concerts, we often will do a "run thru" during the
school day, and the other performance groups sit in the theatre for that, sometimes
with the entire HS and sometimes with just the concert groups. Hope that helps!
My students watch their peers in performance. We found that as our program has
grown, things got a bit crowded. I will be scheduling two winter and Spring
next school year. Having the younger singers listen and watch the older, more
advance students is invaluable to our program. We also record our concerts and make
them available to all singers as an archive and a learning tool.
Here in Stevens Point, the students are given reserved seats so they can view the
concerts. Our administration, being enlightened on the
educational value of the kids seeing other groups perform, has put student seating
at a priority on ALL levels.
We always have the choirs watch the other choirs!
My students watch the other groups perform from the balcony. It is an important
part of the learning process and a logistcal nightmare otherwise. In an auditorium
meant to hold only 600, we fit 200 kids in the balcony and the parents are left
with SRO downstairs.
Young musicians observing and hearing other groups is an important aspect of music
education. Students learn things that they would not learn in any other way -- How
groups really sound, how they should sound, how to act onstage, how to be a good
audience, how to give meaningful critical assessment. They also learn to be
supportive of one another. I think this is something worth fighting for. It makes
no sense that marginally interested non-participants are allowed to be present
while participants are not. It should be an educational priority that students who
are in the choirs be allowed to observe other performances. Would the athletic
teams bar their athletes from watching the other teams play? As I see it, music
education takes precedence over community service (ie: public presentations). Good
luck on this -- I think your idea of issuing tickets might be a good compromise.
I'm in a high school situation now but even at my
former school where I taught both levels, I always had
the kids in the performance listening to the other
groups for the reasons you have stated.
I can't help you with examples...BUT as a college teacher, believe it or not, I
fight some of the same battles with administrative and staff people who understand
crowd-control better than they do education or love of art. Keep at it! This is a
battle worth winning. It speaks to education AND community building, not to mention
I teach high school. My choirs must listen to the other choirs. When I taught
middle school, my choirs were required to listen to the other choirs.
I seems to me that you should frame this to your v.p. in terms of education. It is
a necessary part of the educational process to listen to other groups and learn.
That is one of the essence of arts through the ages, whether it be performing or
visual arts. Humanity has always learned by listening, watching, and viewing then
absorbing, analyzing, critiquing, imitating, stealing, borrowing, internalizing,
and making it your own. There's something to be said about being inspired as well.
(Does he understand the importance of the JV team watching the Varsity team games?
Or in your case perhaps, the 7th grade team watching the 8th grade team?)
Maybe you can also tell him that you will actually be making it part of your lesson
plan to discuss the performance as a class or as a writing
What you also should do is call the schools in your area and poll them to see who
has their choirs watch each other. Locality will have greater strength in your
Sounds to me like your administration is being a little cold about this.
In all of my concerts, not only do my students get to watch the other groups, but
they sit right up front! It's a very valuable experience for the groups to see
other; it builds cameraderie between the groups, and gives the beginning choir an
idea of what's expected of them in the coming years. No parent has ever once
complained about this arrangement, and in fact I get compliments about how
the ahow it and how well-behaved the students are.
Space has never really been a problem...we actually use local high school
auditoriums, since we don't like our own MPR. Could that be a possible workaround?
Admins tend not to think like this far too often. I would challenge this thinking.
I teach at a Pre-K - 5 school in Maryland and I insist on having my students be
allowed to enjoy the performances of the other groups. I have 4 ensembles in my
school: 3rd, 4th and 5th grade chorus and an auditioned, after-school group, open
anyone in those grades. We also share our concert with the school's instrumental
program and it can get quite packed.
During the winter concert, we perform at the local middle school cafeteria/MPR and
there simply isn't enough room for the kids. However, I have them stand out in the
hallway outside the cafeteria so that they can listen to the bands and the other
choruses. I have teachers there that help with crowd control, as well as some
parents that I trust. It's not perfect, but they get to hear each other. In the
Spring, we perform in the high school auditorium, and there are more than enough
seats for all of the kids and the parents to be in the same place. I'll be pushing
for all of the performances to be in the high school next year, so that all of the
kids can enjoy each other's performances fully.
When I taught middle school, all of my choruses were in the MPR room during the
performances. They were also in the same concert with the bands, the orchestra, the
elementary groups, etc. I thought it was more important for them to hear each other
- isn't teaching supposed to be all about the kids, anyway?
Perhaps you can suggest a change in venue? Does your local high school have enough
seating to do something like that, or would you be stepping on any toes - never
an issue for me, but I'm the young, upstart music teacher (so I'm not a REAL
teacher anyway), who doesn't mind upsetting the apple cart from time to time.
Hopefully this gives you some ideas? As for your Vice-Principal, tell him that both
Beach Elementary School and Robert Goddard Middle School have their student groups
hear each other's performances.
It sounds like you have a control freak for a principal :-( First of all, was
there a reason why they couldn't watch? Was it an academic one? If so, could you
write out an 'evaluation form' or something like it that the students would have
to write while watching the concert? This could also be a journal entry, etc.
Also, if he is a reasonable man, have your students write letters of persuasion to
watch the concert. Make sure they know to put in real facts, and not just their
opinion in order to persuade.
Just a couple of ideas....
Also, when speaking with him you might remind him that just because all the other
schools do it that way doesn't necessarily mean its the best way for your school
or your students :-)
A performance is a culminating activity or "exam" for your students. They are being
assessed on participation in both their performance and the observation of the
other performers. If this argument is what it takes to make administration listen
(they hear and understand words like exam and assessment), use it and have ready a
sheet/test/evaluation that all students will fill out after the performance for
which they will get credit.
I was faced with the same space problem in my district, and it was always worth it
to sacrifice a little audience space to have all the kids there. I could see them,
and they were a part of the concert even when not performing. The behavior problems
will not improve in the other room. They feel left out, and not accountable to you,
and sometimes with choir kids, you are the only teacher they behave for. Often we
wonder if the reports of bad behavior are really about the same students we know,
it's so out of character from what we see of them.
I would also highly recommend planning a combined number or two with all the
choirs, or with the choirs and bands, at the end of the concert. This makes it
impossible for groups that are done performing to leave because they have to be in
the closing number. Perhaps you should start exploring the possibility of a new
venue with more space. A local church, or the high school? Also, consider the
possibility of doing two performances on consecutive nights so all the performers
can be in the room and you can spread out the audience between the two. This is
what we did in my district. More time for you I know, but the community appreciated
having the choice and the second performance was always better because the first
was almost a dress rehearsal.
I am not a teacher, but I have an idea: what about putting them in another
auditorium-like room with a video feed of the concert, so they can at least see
This is a hot button for me. Your administration should not be involved in how you
present your concerts. I am retired now, but walked into the exact situation in a
job one time. As I do not know your situation, here are some things to consider:
Do your athletic teams (girls and boys) play games on the same day. One first,
followed by the other? Or do they have a separate schedule? And who is in charge
of making the schedule?
Does your school have a science fair and a math Olympics or anything like that?
Math is used in science, but a good guess is that those departments would not be
expected to collaborate.
Do you have art or wood shop? We had an evening "Art Fair", but the band and
choir were not expected to collaborate with that.
Do you have a drama class that presents to parents during or after school, and
maybe other classes? Alone? Not with the band, choir, art class?
Audience attendance has increased because your groups are bigger, better? Or
band? Either way, celebrate the recognized growth and split. You do not need to
share concerts the way that it has always been done, and a split does not have to
be forever either. But it is a move that celebrates growth and parental interest.
Just because band and choir are music classes does not require them to perform
together. Your combined concerts were OK. That is fine. Maybe one group did not
have enough groups to put on their own concert. If you have two groups, you are in
great shape to have each group do a section, and then combine for a one or two song
grand finale. Not too much literature for either.
Create some learning objectives that you have already done in having the kids be
able to be a part of the audience. Objectives that will include what your students
have learned about appropriate audience behavior, and objectives related to what
they learn from observing and hearing other choirs perform. You already present
advantages of having your students in the audience in your email. Just write your
thoughts down as things that as an educator are important to teach your students.
Stress that there is a learning opportunity being missed that so easily could be
captured. Also, an aside, you should not be expected to try to occupy your
in an educational manner while they are in a holding tank! You are trying to
educate them by having them in the audience and the administration seems opposed to
that. Don't kill yourself with "lesson plans" for non educational time. What the
students do on some one elses watch is no more your concern than what your
students do during lunch time or what they do during their history class. Let
I had one job where the band and choir shared concerts. One year of that was
enough. I split off and everything in the choral department blossomed
I was in a medium sized school where I was the Middle School and High School
director. We had MS band and choir concerts, and HS band and choir concerts. I
combined my MS and HS choirs and did our own concerts. Everyone was thrilled. The
administration, parents and students could suddenly see the larger picture and had
a much better understanding of what was going on. Although my choirs were better
the band (truly), the band always got more administrative support. When I split,
we became our own entity which was a good thing. The younger kids and their
parents could see the possibilities ahead, while the older kids and parents could
see where their kids had advanced from. And yes, we combined for grand finales.
All parents and kids stayed for the whole concert, instead of gathering up and
leaving when their Johnny or Suzie were done.
The whole teaching of audience expectations is part of music education. You can
not teach and audience experience by sitting quietly in the classroom, any more
than you can sing in the classroom and pretend that you are in a concert situation.
The students have to actually experience both.
And for free . . . In church growth studies, when a church reaches 80% seating
capacity, it tops off and quits growing. Your hopeful split will increase both
student and parent population.
Of course your instincts are correct, re: having the other students watch their
colleagues perform. I continue to be amazed when I hear such situations as yours.
Yes, we are lower, middle and junior high school. Yes, we are an independent
school and yes, we probably have smaller numbers than you. (NS - Grade 8 coed
school in NJ) Still, we always have the students who will perform be in the
audience (and yes, it gets crowded). There is a whole education, of which you are
aware, of having students experience how to behave in a concert setting, begin
respectful of the other performers and experiencing all of the music. Our
students *want* to attend -- Nursery right through Grade 8.
To address your question, we used to have one large Music Night for choral and
instrumental performances. Because of our dynamic program and the number of
students involved, we have gone to two evenings -- one choral and one instrumental.
This definitely has worked very well. We also have another night of a Recital
Night, when students perform individually.
Once we remove students from the performance space, we remove the notion that is
important for us to hear things other than that which we produce ourselves. In
encourages narrowness... or put another way, it does not encourage open mindedness,
that which can grow with the experience of hearing a new sound that is pleasing and
closely related to what we do as singers. It also removes the bond formed when
groups present a concert together, and begin to learn the nuances of each other's
In short, it is a terrible idea, and if I were in that position, I would suggest an
extra concert or matinee with your students in attendance at both as you "used to
do" in past days.
Several years ago I had the opportunity to guest conduct the first annual Big Sing
for a suburban school district near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The program participants
included elementary students, middle school students, and high school students --
totaling several hundred. The singers were seated on bleachers on one side of the
large gymnasium, instrumentalists on the floor, and the audience -- most parents
family members, but also including many student friends of the participants who
didn't happen to be involved in the music program -- filled the remainder of the
floor and the risers on the opposite side. Needless to say, the place was jammed.
The program included several pieces by each group, then just about every imaginable
combination -- all of the males, all of the females, the entire group, even with
audience. It was a big success -- largely due to the tremendous support and energy
of the music staff -- and received recognition from the school board and local
in the form of several letters.
Communications from the parents, and from several of the students, indicated a new
awareness and respect for the role of music in the school. The opportunity for the
youngest participants to not only hear, but sing with the more mature voices of the
older groups -- and for the older students to be reminded of the earlier work that
had gotten them to their current level of ability -- was commented on by many.
(And the opportunity to reinforce appropriate standards of etiquette for students
-- and parents! -- was an added benefit.)
Just over a week ago the early music presenting organization that I manage
collaborated with a nearby school district in presenting a residency by The
Baltimore Consort. The Consort worked with everything from kindergarten through
high school, including choruses, general music classes, dance, band, orchestra, and
general history classes. But the most valuable part of the residency was no doubt
the closing program in which parents, non-participating students, and faculty had
the experience of seeing the elementary school choruses actually perform with this
wonderful ensemble. Nearly 250 students were active participants, and nearly 1,000
attended the various classes and the closing concert.
There is nothing more healthy and helpful to school music programs than finding
ways for students to observe each other -- both those at the beginnng of their
development and those who are more advanced -- and for teachers, administrators,
parents to have that experience as well. The proof of the real value is not in the
polished performances of the school's top groups, but in the pleasure of
experiencing and observing the growth of awareness, appreciation, competence, and
simple joy over a period of years.
So, find a way to make it happen -- if space doesn't allow members of all of the
groups to see and hear the other groups, perhaps you can schedule a dress rehearsal
that is attended by all participants -- for the entire program. But your
administration is dead wrong -- if no other schools in your area make it possible,
they should be proud to be the first to realize the potential.
I absolutely agree that it is good for motivation and learning to have the students
see and hear each other. Administrators are not aware how very little choral music
students hear, and the more performances they can hear, the better.
We used to do one concert with all our instrumental and choral groups together
(this is middle school, with a small theater). If all parents were to have a seat,
it was necessary to have the kids in a green room, and they couldn't hear each
other. This was TRULY TERRIBLE, and the past two years we have had two concerts
instead (3 groups each rather than 6 in one concert) and the students have been
able to go to hear each other. Both behavior and motivation have improved in the
Whoever is helping backstage has to be performance savvy. The theater teacher and I
(I teach both choral and instrumental) cover each other's performances as the lead
We have had similar experiences with our "performing arts exploration" performances
(basically beginning theater). Backstage behavior has been appalling when they
see each other. It has been good when they can see at least some of the performances.
Of course when we do a musical, no performers can be in the audience: that's a
Oh yes they watch the concert!!!!!! In fact, they are asked the following day to
the other choirs performances. If you are sharing your concerts with the
I would suggest that you change that. If you have several choirs there is no
reason for you
to not have your own concert. I have 5 choirs at my high school and we manage to
a hour and a half concert with no intermission! My two top choirs could probably
do a full
hour concert by themselves. I have never taught in a district where students were
to view the other performances.
I have four groups, totaling around 120 students. During a school year, we
perform two concerts with the instrumental ensembles and two that are just us.
Interestingly, our audience is about the same regardless of whether we perform
with or without the band department! Our arrangement has always been, and will
continue to be, a student may watch the other groups perform IF there is space in
our theater and as long as they behave appropriately. Our music building is very
close to the theater, so walking from point A to point B is not too much of a
problem. I do have a lot of students who come into the theater to watch other
groups. Usually, they have to stand in the back or sit in the aisles (always
leaving an escape path). I use parents for supervision in the choir room and I
usually show a movie there that the students will enjoy. I designate reliable
students to move between the theater and choir room to let the different groups
know when to line up. While I would like all students to watch all the groups,
this just hasn't been possible, but this arrangement works reasonably well. We do
charge for our concerts and we regularly fill our room of about 400 seats.
When I lived in Michigan, the choirs at Waterford Mott High School all watched all
the performances of the other groups. I mention this if you're trying to keep
track of specifics others know about. Others probably also did, but I didn't
attend those concerts.
To be honest, I can't imagine my principal setting a rule on how I run my
concerts---unless there were safety issues. It almost sounds like there may be
some other issues going on.
We do the same - our kids always sit in the auditorium to hear the other ensembles.
I agree that this is a valuable part of the learning experience - to hear the other
groups and also to learn how to be an audience!
I teach at a performing arts HS in Jersey City, NJ. The choral and instrumental
programs all have concerts on the same night, and we always allow them to watch
each other. It is a vital part of their musical education.
I taught high/middle school 5 years, and university music for 12 years. In all
these places, the choral groups had concerts separate from the other groups (though
we sometimes did things together, exceptionally).
1. Choir kids see band concert: good
2. Choir kids see other choir kids. very good
3. Concert audiences growing. good, but they shouldn't be hoodlum hangouts. Free
tickets is a good idea.
In short, things have grown to the point where the choral and instrumental groups
need their own concerts. This is a GOOD thing. I believe sending the other groups
back with a duty teacher (saints preserve us) is a recipe for disaster, and MORE
IMPORTANTLY, does not allow the groups to hear each other. Performance listening,
and decorum, is an essential parts of any student's education (use that one on the
[That said, your kids would get used to the new way. You would need to mentally
practice ahead of time, and the ones used to the old way would have to move on or
also get used to it]
I would try to make the point with the principal that two concerts is a good thing,
because the crowd (with tickets) would be more attentive, less of a security
problem, and if there's a little space they could grow even more.
You might consider structuring differently also. You could have beginning bands
and choirs on the same program, and advanced groups on the second program. That
way chor and band still get to mix.
Good luck; this is as much an opportunity as a problem.
Every concert has students from all ensembles watching (or at least in attendance,
I'd give a finger if I could get them to watch without feeling the need to
We all watch each other. We had to move to grade level concerts to enable this.
Same evening. Staggered times.
If you have a well integrated program, letting the beginning students see "where
they are headed" and the advanced students see "where they have been" is the ONLY
educationally sound thing to do with your performances and any administrator who
wouldn't go to great lengths to see that this happened EVERY time there is a
combined concert experience just, in my view, isn't seeing what is educationally
best for the students. We have been doing it this way for over twenty years and
though it 'robs' us of ticket revenue (we actually could sell tickets for the seats
that the students occupy) I wouldn't have it any other way.
The only concert where we do not have students in the audience is our holiday
concert in December. This concert is VERY well attended, and there is simply no
room. When I came here six years ago, students waited in the choir room while
others performed. The second year, I had a close-circuit monitor in the choir
so they could see and hear the concert. This helped, but I found students
unfocused for their portion of the concert.
The fourth year (and every year after), I have the choirs not performing sit back
stage behind the risers and shells. This has worked out very well. There is TV
monitor back stage, so student can hear it acoustically and see it. I wouldn't
it any other way. In fact, I am thinking about it for all concerts. They are
better behaved backstage than they are in the audience. Of course, they know that
if they can be heard, I will go back and request their silence.
I'm not sure if your set up allows for this, but it has worked very well for me.
I teach in a collegiate setting, but I also recognize the immense value of having
all groups being able to see, hear, and support each other (and that includes
having my choral groups being able to see and hear instrumental ensembles that may
be performing in the same concert). We have the luxury of having a rather large
performance hall, and so this is usually possible, but for our Fall Music Festival
-- which is during our Parents' Weekend, and when the place is packed to the
rafters -- I have the concert piped into a large monitor TV in the choral rehearsal
room, so that students can watch and hear the other ensembles. To not allow
students to observe and learn from the performance of other
ensembles is to focus solely on the product; what you suggest wisely allows the
"Product" to be a part of the "Process" -- students learning from the performance
of others If your administrators really care about the education of your/their
students, and if music is seen as a valid part of that education, they should be
willing to find ways to make it possible for students to experience the
music-making of their peers at all levels.
My students not only watch the other groups but it is part of the
requirement for the class. There are times where they learn more from those
observations and the subsequent class discussion than with any direct instructions.
It is also a powerful tool for recruiting and motivating students in the beginning
choirs to work for excellence in their
preparations. Having your own concert seems to be a logical option given your
overcrowding problems. Although I teach only high school now (9-12) my previous
position was teaching 7-12 in a smaller school and I still did the same thing
Regarding your administration's unwillingness to allow charging for concerts I have
a question, do you have sports teams at your school and is there a charge for those
games? If not then it appears there is, at least, equality in their approach. If
there is a charge for parents to attend games then that should open the door for
you to do so as well. Maybe if you presented a plan for how the money would be
used if you were allowed to charge that would help open the door to discussion.
I teach middle school too and I think that one of the most important parts of the
concert is listening to the other groups - especially for the beginners! We always
have all the groups watch each other. They need to learn to be good audience
members, support their friends and see what other music is happening. That said,
we also have separate concerts for choir, band and orchestra. To have them
together makes for too many people and too long a concert (we are 6-8 though so
have another grade in there). On occasion we do have too many to sit in the
auditorium and then one group sits in another room with a closed circuit tv to
watch the performance. We try to avoid that whenever possible though since it
isn't the same as being there.
Good luck - I hope you are able to get a change!
Here's Part 2:
There's no reason that a person can't understand that listening to music and
ensembles is almost as important as performing it. No doubt your administrators
will refuse to understand -- after all, they just may have no comprehension of the
arts and in many cases, resent things they don't understand -- it's just not
important to them personally and many secretly wish that we would all just "go
Keep up your positive approach and see if the kids can explain to their parents
just why it's important to listen to other groups AND most importantly, be
supportive of the other students within the fine arts program at your school. A
voice from "outside," such as a parent, can do wonders!
We have the kids sitting in a roped off section at the beginning of the program,
except for the ones on stage. Kids rotate into the empty seats as they are
vacated when the seated kids get up to perform, so we conserve the number of seats
we take up. It has not been a problem, and no one seems to complain - a lot of
the parents want to stand in back to see better anyway.
In the gym. choirs on one side, band on the other. Seventh grade goes first.
Choir students report directly to risers. Band students tune in the music wing
and then bring their instruments to their chairs. Those in choir then go to
their place on the risers. Non choir band students remain in their chairs to
watch the choir. At 7 the concert begins. It lasts 45 to 50 minutes. Choir
sings first. Then band students go to their place in the band. Non band choir
students just sit on the riser to watch the band. At 7:45 the audience leaves
and the eighth graders begin to arrive. The concert starts at 8:15, finished by
9 or so. Same procedure. No warm-up, no reminders. Just arrive and do it. The
next morning the two programs are consolidated into one assembly for the entire
student body. Music students sit in the front bleachers so that the groups can
One more thing I forgot to mention - we all use parent chaperones to help watch
kids instead of duty teachers. I don't know if you are required to have them but
we can use parents as long as there is one teacher in charge (which for concerts is
me). It works really well and might save some money!
Another possibility: when I was a middle school student, we gave our concerts on
different evenings entirely, but we also gave a concert for each other during the
school day, which took one period out of our day.
The only concert that has been a problem is the Christmas Concert - so we went to
two performances - 6:30 and 8:00 pm - for that one.
Re the extra people needed: can you provide some parent
volunteers, to stretch the school personnel, like maybe one admin and one duty
teacher commanding an army (or platoon) of parent volunteers? That shows
initiative and good will on your part, and gets parents directly involved, always a
blessing and always mixed! And you can maybe get rid of the cops.
It sounds like you have a full house. My only suggestion would be too consider
singing around the audience or putting everyone on stage and alternating numbers -
then having them all sing together but they might not work because you can't always
get middle school students to just stand there.....I had middle school in my
concert in December and they are wiggle worms.....but I just turned the lights off
of them. Maybe a spot light? Good luck in your endeavors. I am not very creative,
just crazy enough to try anything different. Believe me, it doesn't always work.
I used to direct the choirs in a middle school in Canada (gr. 6-8) and we
struggled with similar issues. We decided to do the following:
We originally had joint choir and band concerts. This was stopped for several
reasons. One, because the venue was getting too small to house the entire audience.
Two (and more importantly in my mind), the venue was the school gym which meant
horrendous acoustics for choirs.
We decided to have separate band and choir concerts. (As music teachers, we
continued to support each other by volunteering to supervise each others'
concerts). To solve the acoustic issue, we rented a local church for our concerts
(actually, they let us use it for free as it brought people from the community into
the church building). The kids really loved it as they finally sounded like a choir
The church had a balcony, so we had all the kids who were waiting to perform wait
there. This way, they could still hear the concert, but wouldn't be too noisy for
the parents (we had other teachers help supervise in the balcony). It also allowed
for interesting performing opportunities.
This arrangement worked really well and I'd highly recommend it. The choral
program began to thrive as they were singing in a space that supported their sound.
Also, like you say, the younger kids heard the advanced choirs and were inspired
We had the same issues here at the private middle school where I teach.
Another problem was length of the program when all the bands, choirs, and
orchestra shared the same concert. We decided to split out the groups and have
them perform on different nights. The bands have their own concert, and the
strings and choirs share a Christmas concert. In the spring, we have three
different concerts. This allows each group to prepare more music for performance,
gives the audience more breathing room, and allows the groups to hear/watch each
other from inside the auditorium. You are right: there is great value in having
the beginning groups listen to their older peers perform!
If your school calendar is too full to schedule separate nights, and
administration is adamant about keeping you out of the MPS while the other groups
are on stage, see if you can get a video feed to the classrooms where students are
waiting. (Your local cable company might be able to help with this - one school
where I taught had the community cable channel arrange a similar link to the
school's central system used to broadcast daily announcements.) Of course, that
depends on your school's level of technology.
It does let the exiled students keep track of the performance onstage, but it
isn't as good as being in the room.
I pity the poor duty teachers who have to supervise these students! That's the
final benefit of having all the groups in the performance space at once:
it keeps your colleagues happier! (... which makes them more willing to
cooperate when you need a favor...)
I do a prism concert with everyone on stage and I use lights to present them. Both
choirs stand on stage and they sing for each other on the stage! I never have to
worry about what the other group is doing and they get to share in the performance.
I even did it one year with the jazz band on one side of the stage. I don't allow
clapping until the entire performance is over so that it doesn't seem like a
competition. My general choir has grown and they feel like they are just as
important as my advanced choir and we can easily do joint numbers. I have a large
auditorium with a group of students that takes care of lighting....this is high
school but it might work for you if you have the stage space.