Face Your First Festival Fluster

Your first festival is an exciting opportunity. Avoid miscommunication and intimidation factors. Prepare yourself and your band mentally for the experience.

Get in touch with colleagues.

Call local directors and ask them what they have played in the past. This will give you an idea of what is expected in your area. Ask them for copies of old programs from festivals. Buy copies of these scores. A quick study will give you concepts a festival score should have.

MENC member Joseph LaBrie says, “I got great ideas for music from colleagues, as well as information about how festival works.”

Choose music you know the kids can play.

MENC member Michelle Naegele says, “I tried to pick pieces that I knew well and had conducted in the past with success. If I could have changed anything I think I would have picked at least one ‘easier’ piece.”

Use your selection to showcase a musical skill or concept instead of a novelty. Avoid pop music. New compositions on CD don’t necessarily equate with high quality. Beware of marketing phrases by publishers, such as “Perfect for Festival”. Works that have stood the test of time are best.

You only have control over your attitude and performance.

Talk to your kids about the reasons for going to the festival. Explain that they are not competing with anyone. They must work hard, enjoy what they are doing, and perform to the best of their ability. That way, they will succeed no matter what.

A festival is not much different from a concert. If you are good at home, you are good on the road. The venue may change but the sound does not. Find as many similarities as possible between the two and concentrate on them. Address differences so your kids will know what to expect.

Build up consistency and follow-through.

Pick one warm-up routine and stick with it. An abbreviated warm-up in a new venue will give the kids a sense of the room they will be playing in. Work etiquette into the performance sessions. You should be prepared to acknowledge the audience. Have the band practice standing during applause while you take a small bow.

Remember to take any comments you receive. They contain valuable input for the kids on how to make steady improvement. Comments also provide evidence from an outside perspective of what you need to grow. When you talk to your administrator or with music parents, you can provide evidence for scheduling and support needs.


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Coming in two weeks: First year blues

— Paul Fergus, September 4, 2008, © National Association for Music Education (www.nafme.org)