concert band · jazz · teaching

“The Kitten” is posted, and thoughts on jazz band performances…

First, excerpts from “The Graceful Kitten” (my freshman band in November) are now up on the web site on the Jazz Ensemble Charts page. I also did some editing on the chart based on what we learned in that performance. This tune is playable by a wide range of bands, both those that are new to playing jazz and/or improvising and those with limited rehearsal time.

I have a couple of thoughts since our November 19 concert. I always try to put myself in the audience’s place as far as concert pacing and stylistic contrasts are concerned. As music educators our most difficult job is choosing quality literature for our groups that challenge them enough (but not too much), that they enjoy playing, and that audiences will enjoy.

I tend to overprogram. I’ve found over the last 30 years that it can be tough to be an audience member at a school concert! I don’t mean that we should do half-hour concerts of pop tunes, but changing things up and moving them along help alot to keep the audience involved. We had to take yearbook pictures at the start of each group’s part of the performance. That takes only a couple of minutes because we have a great photographer with lots of experience. Still, it breaks the flow of the concert. I also had a guest pro group play about 15 minutes – they had done a clinic with the bands a few weeks earlier. I limited them to 15 minutes even though they play great because the concert is about the kids.

Even with that, the concert was 2 hours. That’s too long. After 9:00 it’s getting late for high school kids in our school who still have several hours of homework ahead of them. I try to keep most concerts inside of 90 minutes.

Especially at this time of year, concerts tend to be too long. Lots of schools try to get everyone possible on a holiday concert. That’s cool, but it also means the concert will be long, and parents aren’t afraid of leaving early any more. By the time the last group plays you could lose half your audience.  I have to remind myself: WE DON’T HAVE TO THROW EVERYTHING AT THEM EVERY TIME.

That’s been easier for me since my first two bands now alternate rehearsal days! Half the rehearsal time means half the tunes prepared, so I can limit concert durations a little better. Just remember…always leave them wanting more


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