Apr 29 2012, 06:18 AM
Okay...I know I'm thinking a LONG way ahead here, but this year now that my student numbers are increasing I want to organise a Christmas concert for my students. I tried last year, just putting it on at the music school where I teach a couple of days a week, and by the week of the concert I was reduced to 2 students who were able to make it (so of course I had to cancel!).
This year I've been looking into local halls for hire and I've found a really nice church with a grand piano that has reasonable hire fees (estimated $100 plus $25 insurance).
I have a couple of questions for those who are experienced with organising concerts and recitals such as this.
Is it reasonable to ask parents/friends/family to pay an entry fee? I was thinking $5 (about 3 pounds) for adults and $2 (a bit over a pound) for children. This won't make me any profit of course, but should help to cover most of the hire fees. My current student base allows me to pay my bills etc but doesn't leave enough spare for me to really be able to "shout" my students a concert. Even if it is tax deductible!
How much notice do you give students/parents when announcing the date of the concert? I was thinking of providing a newsletter 2 months in advance outlining everything they need to know and asking students to confirm their attendance by a particular date. Does this sound like enough notice given that it's the busy season (end of school, other christmas concerts) for most people?
How long do your concerts usually go for? I estimate having between 12 and 15 students performing 2 pieces each, putting the program length at about 40 minutes. As the majority of my students are under 8 I imagine that any longer than this would see them getting quite restless!
Do you perform at your student recitals? I've been considering whether this would be good or not. I think I'd be terrified of making a mistake in front of all of those parents! Though it would be a good performance opportunity and probably good to expose the younger ones to more advanced repertoire, hopefully motivating them in the process!
Apr 29 2012, 07:17 AM
I've only done pupil concerts in my house so not quite on the scale you're look at although I have thought about having to do the same kind of thing if I had all pupils together.
On charging - as you're hiring a hall, I think it is reasonable to ask the audience to pay a small fee to cover the cost. After all, you are organising it for their pupil's benefit and also if parents are paying something, they and your pupils are more likely to be committed to coming.
As for advertising the date, I usually tell parents at the beginning of term that I'm planning a concert towards the end and give them the date a month beforehand. However, again as you're planning a bigger event, I would go with your 2 months notice or beginning of term and getting their confirmation of participation in early. Could you sound out pupil's interest early before you book the church? I guess it depends on the church booking conditions and cancellation policy.
I think your 40 minutes would be enough. I've had about 6 pupils in my house at a time for a concert - plus parents - each playing 2 pieces and it took less than half an hour. They then all had a drink and mini muffins or something similar afterwards! Last Christmas, I did two concerts - one for the primary school pupils (6-9 yr olds) and a second one for the teenagers - partly for practical reasons, partly because the younger ones were playing their first concert and partly because I had to coax some of the teenagers into doing it!
Finally, I have performed at my concerts - usually something very short to start off when I've had young children and none of them wanted to go first!
Good luck with your planning!
Apr 29 2012, 07:26 AM
You really ARE thinking ahead - I'm just organising my annual summer concert for the beginning of July!
I've just sent out the date to all students' parents and asked them to keep the date free. I find that everyone prioritises our concerts and the only thing that would stop them being able to commit is if they are away on a school trip.
I charge a small entrance fee for adults but don't charge for children. After paying the hire fee for the church, I donate the rest to charity and my families are very happy about this.
I split the concerts into 2 parts, with each student playing 2 solo pieces in the first half and the 2nd half is for duets. Most of them play duets with me, but some siblings and friends play together.
I present an award at the end of the concert for the 'student of the year'.
I find that these concerts are very much appreciated by the families and are a good motivation for the students.
Of course, finding suitable pieces for everyone takes quite a bit of planning and I have to set aside a day when I can look through my music cupboard. This year the concert is only one week after the practical exams here, so quite a few students will play one of their exam pieces.
It's important to me that they all play pieces that they enjoy and that are interesting/ entertaining/enjoyable for the audience.
Although organising concerts is quite hard work, I'm convinced that it's extremely worthwhile. It's a great opportunity for them all to hear each other play and the younger ones are really motivated by the more advanced players.
Apr 29 2012, 07:29 AM
What a lovely idea
Firstly you should definitely charge entrance. I charge the same for spectators and performers and also for adults and children (all 3 pounds) although under 5s are free. No one should expect you to pay for it yourself. Plus if people don't pay something for a ticket they often don't show up on the day and then the whole event is ruined.
My concerts have two parts of about 30 mins with a 20 min interval. I think 40 mins is plenty with no interval.
I do perform at my concerts, I sing and play piano. I always go first cos half way through I'm too frazzled to concentrate! Performing is great for me personally because I have performance anxiety so it's good practice. Plus I also fear that the patents of my students might think I'm rubbish and won't want to send their kids to me, so by performing in front of them I'm exposing myself and then I feel more confident that they know what they're paying for.
I rarely get through a piece without messing it up and so far I've lost no students. In fact I haven't lost a student since I started teaching.
I would tell them the date as soon as you know it
Apr 29 2012, 08:23 AM
Yes, parents should help cover the costs of putting on the concert. It's not reasonable for you to cover costs yourself.
My most recent one was in March this year, and I simply asked families to make a donation at the end to help cover costs - hire of building and cost of printing - (which is done 'in house' but we still have to provide the paper and ink). Whether this would work for you I don't know of course! I think as it is a 'first' I would probably, in your shoes, make a charge for entry. You don't want to be out of pocket, and I think, looking back, I charged entry on the first couple that I put on. Like Jenny, I send a cheque to charity once the expenses are deducted: there is always a little left over and the parents know that it goes to a children's charity.
We had 14 performers, playing mostly two pieces each (one or two keen ones did three). We started at 2.30 and finished about 3.45, with a 15 min break at 3.00. I provided juice and biscuits for the performers (and siblings of course!) at the end. I don't perform - although I've sometimes considered it - but generally I feel it is long enough once the programme is finalised.
These events are always very rewarding, and I take my hat off to those teachers who organise them twice a year, or even once a term! I find that one a year is about right for me - there is quite a lot of work involved - but it is well worth it in the end - the pupils come back the following week inspired afresh - after my last one almost everyone wanted to learn 'Wild Horseman', which was also a nice boost for the rather shy girl who played it! It also worked out well this time that our exams came in a few days after the concert, so the three candidates had a useful practice run.
I publicise the date a couple of months ahead, and this time there was just one who couldn't make it. Christmas is often a busier time all round (although summer term runs a close second!), so you might mention it to parents at the end of this term, but confirm the date in September.
Good luck with your planning!
Apr 29 2012, 09:51 AM
I don?t think you are planning too soon. I reckon it is good to have the basics in mind well before the date because there are always last minute things to cope with.
I am fortunate in that I get the use of the school canteen free and I don?t charge for entry but we do sell programmes. That is to say that I will prepare and print off about 60 programmes myself and then these will be sold at the door. But in the past some people haven?t bought one. They are allowed to give what they like but I am thinking this year of asking for a minimum of 1 euro ? though I will have to accept the fact that mums and dads will probably only buy one programme between them. I have also thought of putting a number on each programme and holding a raffle but then I would have to provide the prize and I really don?t know what ? it would have to be something cheap but attractive ? a nice box of chocolates perhaps. Remains to be thought about.
At the beginning of the year I asked everyone to pay an inscription fee on top of the first term?s lessons. I put it at 5 euros for the first child in the family 4 for the second and so on. I had a donation of 50 euros from a well wisher so ended up with a total of 186 euros. I have used 160 euros for reimbursing 10 euros per exam entry as the fees here are exorbitant and taking ABRSM exams in not part of the culture and needs a lot of encouragement. This means that some pupils not doing exams this year have subsidised others but without the framework the ABRSM provides for my work down here I couldn?t function and in the long run all pupils benefit over a period of time. So any money made from the sale of programmes will go back into the inscription fund to be used for exams next year. I will keep parents informed of all this. The 26 euros remaining from this year?s inscription fund will go towards drinks in the interval and if that isn?t enough I will chip in the rest. I am asking parents each to bring a contribution to the refreshments and I?m not anticipating refusals as the French are very used to ?gouters? where everyone brings along something.
I don?t know exactly how long our concert will last but I reckon about 80 minutes of music with an interval of 20 to 30 minutes. I will have about 35 pupils taking part. Most will play one piece, some two and there are also some duets. The longest contribution will be from my Grade 4 and Grade 6 pupils but most other pieces are very short. However I have a system whereby each pupil announces for another and this adds to the length of the programme overall. It was instigated originally to prevent those who performed in the first half from leaving before the second half. That happened when I first started as it was the kind of razzmatazz that had been allowed before I arrived on the scene. I don?t think it would happen now but the pupils are very keen on announcing for each other so we still do it.
I usually send out a slip a couple of months before the date of the concert asking parents to sign that their child will participate. I make it quite plain that I expect everyone to participate and that the idea is not formal but to have fun in a musical evening together.
I wish you the very best of luck with your Christmas concert ? if you manage it do please tell us about it afterwards.
Apr 29 2012, 09:52 AM
I'm not a teacher, but can pass on some comments of what I've seen work (and I have a lot of experience organising concerts for my choirs). First rule, you mustn't be personally out-of-pocket, so yes, you should charge. Give plenty of notice so that the grannies, aunts and uncles get invited too.
The teacher who runs the two Saturday orchestras I attend (the beginners' and the community ones) runs a Christmas concert and in between the orchestras performing items (beginners' one first half, community one second half) has his students doing their solo items in between. He uses it to announce "and little Johnny has just passed his G1 trumpet, Sarah has just got her G2 violin" etc. I think tickets were GBP3 and the village hall was full. juice/tea/coffee served during the interval.
Apr 30 2012, 07:53 AM
I'm hoping to do something at Christmas too and will try the www.clicsargent.org.uk/practiceathon idea that ABRSM are promoting at the moment. This doesn't have to be sponsored practice but can also be concerts. Great combination of promoting music in your area, performance opportunities for your pupils (I will get together with other local teachers) and raising money for a great charity.
Apr 30 2012, 08:34 AM
As a parent I would like to know the date as early as possible (at the beginning of the school year in September would be ideal) but you would need to send out a couple of reminders as well.
I also think it's nice when the teacher plays something but I think you need to think carefully about when you're going to play. In one of my daughter's piano concerts her teacher played in the middle and the teenage girl who played after her, stumbled through a few bars and burst into tears. The teacher had a whispered conversation with her, accompanied her off the stage and came back saying that X was worried that we were all going to think she was awful compared to the teacher, that she had tried to reassure X that no one was expecting X to play like the teacher but that she would leave X to compose herself and ask her to come and play her piece at the end (which she duly did, and very nicely).
Apr 30 2012, 08:42 AM
I do Christmas and summer concerts, but I wish I was this organised!
I charge an entry fee, and like many others, any excess goes to charity. I will talk for 30 seconds about what charity it is as an intro to the concert just so everyone knows, which usually means that more donations for the charity get given to me at the end.
I don't charge for performers, I figure they are paying their way, but I do charge a pound or so more than you are thinking (I think it was ?4 and ?2.50 last Christmas), as I provide a glass of wine and mince pie at the end. Around half of my students are adults, so at the end of a concert everyone will usually sit around chatting, which is such a nice thing I like to encourage it by providing wine!
Usually my concerts run at around 1 hour ish, one hour 15 would be my maximum, and as it looks like it may be more than that this summer, I may consider two concerts, adult and child. I tell everyone as soon as I can though, and check the calenders of the local schools to see if I am clashing with anything they do.
I do perform, but like everyone else, I feel more pressure because its the students and their parents. However, I have a very lovely lot of students, and some amazingly rowdy adult students who always stand up and cheer as loud as they possibly can after I finish (usually ruining their voices in time for their performance!) I figure if i'm ever rubbish, they would probably heckle loudly, but they haven't yet!
My students love the concerts, so it is all worthwhile. I do, however, always offend one of them in the process of organising a concert, so be aware of that. Usually, it is that I cannot rearrange the organised concert date so that granny can make it, or the fact that I always have the Christmas concert in a church and I have a few Jehovah's witness students who therefore wont attend. Its difficult to make a decision that will please everyone.
Hope the planning goes well!
Apr 30 2012, 09:55 AM
I agree with Soprano101
While I think it's wonderful that some teachers give the proceeds to charity I keep the profit I make. Last time I made about ?30 so it's not a lot but sometimes I worry I won't break even and occasionally I'll get lots of people and may make up to ?70. The profit from one concert will balance out the risk of a loss on another one. I don't see it as a money making exercise though, more a service I provide to my students and choir members. But it takes a lot of my time, far more than the profit compensates.
The reason I charge for participants is that originally these concerts (I do three a year) were supposed to be small scale low pressure recitals for adults with performance anxiety (such as myself). The idea was that perhaps 7 or so of my choir singers would perform a solo in front of the other performers. A bit like the adult learner concerts. So there would be no "audience members" as such. As with everything I do, it escalated!! But if I didn't charge the performers then I'd definitely not cover my costs.
I don't do programmes but I do have drinks and biscuits in the interval which I provide free of charge (good old Tesco Value
Apr 30 2012, 11:04 AM
Go for it - it's a HUGE amount of effort to organise (especially in the week and the weekend before) but it more than repays itself in pupil motivation and practice building.
We have an annual event which is publicised with regular newsletters and updates from the start of term, every two or three weeks, until it happens in the last week of term. I expect all of my pupils to be involved and try to make as many parents feel a part of it as possible too - to that end we usually have a ceilidh and refreshments afterwards which most people stay for, with families each providing a plate of food and a local band (of which several of my older pupils are members) providing the music, with one of the dads doing the calling.
I don't make a charge for the event, however I do invite a charity bucket contribution from people (after the concert and before the ceilidh - although the bucket is usually added to during the dancing!! . I work mainly in the rural community and, over the years, we have supported a number of local, relevant charities, including our local hospice.
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