Get Your Students a Gig! Part 2

MENC member and jazz educator Stephen Holley knows that providing students with off-campus performance opportunities is an invaluable part of their musical education. In Part 1, he discussed these educational benefits. Here, he shares the mechanics of getting off-campus gigs.

Involve students in the process

Give some ownership of the project to your students. Let them write the band bio, have a photography student do the photo shoot, and get their input on demo songs.

The process of booking a band is an excellent teaching opportunity, and for a few kids, it just might be an introduction to a skill they’ll use the rest of their life!

Get your band out and gigging

  • Start small, such as entertainment for a parent/school organization, a parent’s workplace function, or playing for another school’s assembly.
  • Create a promo kit. Include a recording, photo, bio, song list, list of venues played, quotes, cover letter, contact info, and awards. An abundance of sites online can help you with this. You should also have an EPK—Electronic Press Kit—that you can e-mail at a moment’s notice.
  • Produce a video and create a YouTube/SchoolTube channel. If you have copyright questions about posting videos online, visit MENC’s Copyright Center.
  • Create a band Facebook page. Have your students “like” it. Have their friends, grandmothers, and pets “like” it. Keep in touch with your new fans!
  • Gigs beget more gigs. The more you play off-campus, the better your chances of booking additional gigs. Bring extra promo kits, or at the very least, business cards, to every gig.

Other thoughts on the Ps, Qs, and B-flats of gigs

  • Formulate a plan to get students, parents, faculty, and administration to support this new endeavor! If you get the students on board, their parents are usually keen to offer support.
  • Getting the band out into the community not only educates your students and promotes your school/program, but it publicizes the importance of music education as a vital part of21st century education.
  • If possible, move away from booking all the performances yourself. See if any students want to learn how to book a band. Give them the tools to do so while providing feedback, supervision, and oversight.
  • Create an online calendar that both your students and their parents can access. Keep it updated with the who, what, where, when, and why of each gig. Send e-mails as well … just in case!
  • Balance your students’ time with academic/athletic pursuits and other interests—not to mention your own personal time!

I’ve created a forum topic so we can continue the discussion. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you might have, and I’d love to hear about past experiences with your students.
Steve Holley is the coordinator of the Commercial Music Program at the Kent Denver School in Englewood, CO. Under his leadership, the program’s DownBeat award-winning ensembles have performed at venues in Memphis, New Orleans, New York, and Miami, among others. Steve has performed with artists ranging from Arturo Sandoval to Tia Fuller, from James Williams to Doug Wamble, among many others. Prior to moving to Colorado he lived, performed, and taught in his adopted hometown of Memphis.
-Anne Wagener, October 27, 2010 © National Association for Music Education