the concert: audience as performer

J – This video is from our January Grades 6-12 Combined Chorus Concert. About 3/4 of the way through our concert I had the Middle School and Upper School Choirs walk right into the audience and taught them all Freedom is Coming (a traditional African piece). Neither the audience nor the students new about this… it was pure spontaneous goodness!

Freedom is Coming

Why did I do it? I decided to teach and perform this piece with the audience for a number of reasons. The first being that we spent the first 4 months of school learning what the process should look like. We focused on developing literacy skills, learning good vocal technique, developing musicianship and just learning the ins and outs, learning to be active in the music making process. Holding the students and myself accountable for this during every rehearsal, all the while having only 90 minutes to rehearse a week (and thats if they didn’t have an impromptu meeting or commitment), meant that we were not going to have a lengthy concert. I wasn’t just teaching music, I was trying to change the way they thought about music and their commitment to it. To many, only performing 3 pieces in the Upper School Ensemble and 2 with the Middle School may seem as if we didn’t work very hard. And yes, if your audience is thinking that it’s all about the pieces and the performance, then they may think that.

I thought it might be nice for them to experience part of the process (just a snapshot!)…  learning an individual part, singing in harmony, and performing together with energy, even if by rote.

The second was… I knew I needed to invite parents, colleagues and administration into our new music community. Things were changing.. and I wanted them to be apart of this change. This only helped to reinforce what I was working towards and where I want us to go together as a school and music community. I think this not only brought the audience into our world, but the students enjoyed collaborating with them in this effort.

Feedback – The Feedback from parents, colleagues and administration was great. They all were very happy to be invited into this process.

A few parents said that it was a fun to sing with the kids and learn each part… and sing! So many do not have an opportunity to just sing together. If giving them this opportunity isn’t advocacy at its best, then I don’t know what is.

How I felt – For me, this was a big risk… this was the first time some of these people were going to meet me, not to mention the pressure of doing this in front of all of my singers, their parents, friends, colleagues and administrators. What if I messed up or froze? What if they didn’t get what I was saying? What if they DIDN’T SING??! But, I figured we as a community could only grow from it.

Planning it was pretty interesting… I went over every possible way I could present it and thought I had come up with something great. But, when I started all of that went out the window and I just did what felt right.

Reflecting back, I am very happy that I did it.

I only wish that I had a video camera facing the audience.

This entry was posted in Advocacy, Etcetera, Performance. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to the concert: audience as performer

  1. Jen Nash says:

    Great idea to get parents, faculty and guests involved in the performance. Thank you for sharing!

  2. deetiller says:

    When I taught middle school, we did a concert with audience participation by having the students pass out pages of newspaper to members of the audience who were supposed to follow the students (who went back to stand on the apron of the stage) during the song. We then did a percussion piece with “found sounds” (items brought from home such as buckets, tools, brooms, pans, etc) and the students wadding the newspaper sounded like rain all across the audience. A large piece of sheet metal (with the edges turned to avoid cuts – parent provided this!) as the thunder. This was before I saw the video of Perpetuum Jazzile doing the Afrika with body percussion. I would do the same idea – having students lead a section of the audience who had to follow them making the sound of the rain.

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