The other day, I was talking to two different music teachers in two different conversations and it suddenly occurred to me that I had only shared my method/tricks with a few people and my various student teachers. That needs to change because if I had been doing this a "harder" way and nobody ever shared the "easier/better" way with me, I would be VERY SAD that I didn't know these things all along! I am sure that some of you already do these things (or, maybe even all of them, in which case GO YOU!).
Step 1: Know your audience. This means a few things: What is the group of kiddos like? Age? Ability? Experience? Behavior? What kind of expectations do your parents and administrators have? Are those expectations reasonable? Does your school community expect musicals with props and costumes or are they open to something more like you would actually teach on a daily basis in your music room? (For instance, my school prefers a traditional, cute musical). After you have answered all of these questions, you will have an idea of what kind of show you will want to do.
Step 2: Know your budget. This is actually LESS important than many other things. WHAT? Money isn't important? Well, no, not as important as you might think. You can make just about anything work on a large budget or a budget of $0. No matter the dollar amount, you need to know this ahead of time so that you can place orders, gather supplies, etc.
Step 3: Teach the music. I am going to assume that by this step, you have ordered your music if you needed to. So you own the rights to put on the show you have selected in some way, shape or form. Yay. This is good. Now, you need to teach the music to your students. If you have chosen age-appropriate repertoire, you should set aside 8 weeks of instruction for the preparation of your program. Yes, INSTRUCTION. This means that for a show in January, you DO NOT COUNT the two weeks of Winter Break. In that case, you will need to start 10 weeks prior. This is all assuming that you meet once a week with your classes for at least 30-45 minutes. Less time means you need to add weeks. More time and you might want to keep it at 8 weeks or shave a little bit of time off, but in my experience, there is something magical about 8 weeks regardless. I am sure someone has researched this, but I digress... I typically have 5 or 6 classes in a grade level which means 5 or 6 classes in one show. ALL STUDENTS LEARN ALL OF THE MUSIC. Let's use the musical E-i-e-i Oops as an example. This year, I have 6 second grade classes, but they come to me as 5 music classes (the 6th class is distributed evenly for the purpose of attending music, art and PE). E-i-e-i Oops has 5 songs. Each class has a specific song, costume, choreography and speaking parts assigned to them. So Class #1 is on stage for the first song. They all dressed as farmers. They sang E-i-e-i Oops on the stage and performed all of the choreography for it. Then, they did the speaking parts that followed that song. After they were done, they moved down in front of the stage and the next class was signaled to take their places on the stage. This process continued until the show was over. Let me repeat: ALL STUDENTS LEARN ALL OF THE MUSIC! So, while one class is performing on the actual stage, there is vocal support from the rest of the students. This method of rotating classes up to the stage means that EVERY STUDENT in a grade level gets featured in a smaller group. I feel that this is important. It helps the students to realize how important each person is to the performance and it allows parents to see their child with their class on the stage creating a lasting memory.
Step 4: To costume or not to costume: COSTUME. COSTUME COSTUME COSTUME!!! Yes, I know. Some of you have parents who are master seamstresses and who have the time and ability to deck your entire grade level out in personally-sized, award-winning couture. Okay, so maybe not...but some of you do have great resources for costuming. And, some just don't. I have been in a variety of costuming situations. Everything from inner-city Title 1 (my first teaching assignment, years ago) to my current school which has changed over the last 11 years in many ways. You can do it! Costumes do not have to be fancy or expensive. This year, we had our students wear their class t-shirt, jeans, and we made sentence strip headbands that were C-U-T-E! Two classes actually wore cowboy hats that I already had (and some of them were even borrowed from another school). They were ordered at Oriental Trading and were quite inexpensive considering that they will probably last my entire career. Whatever situation you are in, find some way to make things special. Can't costume everyone? Costume just the speaking parts. Hit the thrift stores and chop up some clothes into your own version of "sewing." Before I could sew a straight line (which is ALL I can do) I used to make costumes using hot glue, staples, etc. Yes...I know. Don't laugh! In fact, the most impressive costume items I ever made were butterfly wings for Bugz that were made with fabric, elastic, staples and a ponytail holder. SUPER CLASSY! ;) If you are at a dead end for ideas and you want some inspiration, hit up Pinterest or even send me a message and I will help you brainstorm!
Step 5: Props?: Props are not always necessary. However, they can really make a difference. They also do not have to be difficult to make. I was so intimidated by the idea of setting a stage with props when I first started teaching. Once I realized how easy it could be, I was absolutely floored. Take for instance the barn we used this year. It is made from foam insulation board purchased at Lowe's. We taped two of those bad boys together with packing tape, cut another piece to make the roof and taped that on, then wrapped the whole thing in red butcher paper. After that, we put white duct tape on it and VOILA! A barn. What you can't see in the picture is the giant bookcase that is propping it up! :)
Step 6: Advertise: Always inform your parents about upcoming performances AT LEAST one month prior to the first performance date. Six weeks prior is even better. In your letter, you should include the performance times, dates, what the students will need to wear (this can say it is to be determined but please follow up quickly on this especially if parents are expected to provide anything), and also very importantly...that attending the performance is an expectation. Yes, it is an expectation. Everyone is an important part of the performance and things like dance practice, karate, etc. do not take precedence over it. I am very sympathetic to the packed schedules that families have. I really, truly get it. But, performances are the culmination of weeks and weeks of instruction and the final product is extremely important. What is important to you will be come important to your students and what is important to your students will be (most times) important to their parents. What is important to all of them will be important to your administrators.
Step 7: Perform: Yes, the performance! It is actually (for me) the least stressful moment of the entire process. It is fun, the atmosphere is electric with excitement and you can totally feel the love from the kiddos, parents, etc. Have someone take pictures because you will be way too busy. You will want pictures of everything from getting lined up all the way to the hugs afterwards. Also, don't forget to thank people! That goes for parents, other teachers, administrators and your custodial staff!
Step 8: Bask in the glow of your success. Preferably, over a very delicious and indulgent meal. I KNOW I am not the only one who does this! :)
I hope this has been helpful! Feel free to ask questions if needed.