The Enliven! Blog

Helping Harness Human Capacity

Smarter Winter Concerts

I recently had the opportunity to guest teach music at schools which were preparing for or recovering from their Winter Concerts. I observed the motivation students HAD to learn their parts. I saw the many “extra” hours music teachers logged in coaching soloists, preparing costumes, preparing sets. I heard reports that the concerts were great, that the students did well.

I also heard frustrations from teachers about the parents who attended the concerts. I heard about the parent who sets up a video camera in an inconvenient spot, refusing to move in consideration of the convenience or sight lines of others. I have heard of parents complaining that their child’s class performed only one song, while other classes performed four items. I heard of parents leaving with their child as soon as their child’s portion of the concert was over.

It is easy to be critical of parents for these behaviours. But I gained another perspective when I heard a teacher, who is also a parent, confess that she left her Winter Concert early with her child. She said “Here I am, not having seen my child all day, sitting at the concert, and sensing that my child is not interested in the rest of it. Why would I stay?” This comment sheds light on a problem with Winter Concerts and begs the question as to their real purpose.

So what is the real purpose of these concerts? These concerts are about more than the individual child and his/her family. Schools hope that these concerts will be a community experience. There is a long tradition of Christmas concerts, especially in rural areas, where each child had a part, where the schoolhouse was packed, and where there was a strong sense of community participation. This sense of community is still desirable. How can it be achieved?

A strong sense of community begins with acknowledging community experience it as a goal. As much as one wants musical performances and parent affirmation, the goal of creating a community experience should rise to or near the top for the school. If the students have a sense of being invested in this community experience called “Winter Concert” the parents will follow. And the students will have learned something beyond their notes.

A sense of community can be built by increasing the sense of ownership that the community has in the concert. What would happen if the school consulted the community in planning the theme and content of the concert? Perhaps community members have resources to offer. A sense of community can also be built by creating experiences which involve everyone. What if, for example, the local politician took on the role of Santa Claus and handed out treats to all? What if there was a community sing along at the end of the program, for all the students and all the parents? What if there was a community exchange of inexpensive or used gifts? What if there was a collection for food bank and the results were announce at the end? These elements are more than just a trick to keep everyone to the end. They are a way to build up an expectation of a community experience which touches all. Then perhaps the teacher-parent mentioned above would see her child interested in the concert as a whole.

Once a stronger sense of purpose for the concert is established, school leaders can engage parents cooperation in this key venture. The concert can include clarification of the purpose of the concert and the expectations of parents. The result would be a smarter approach by all to this key venture, and a more positive outlook in both staff room and community.

What are your experiences with Winter concerts?

1 Comment »

  1. E. Klassen said,

    December 22, 2010 @ 11:01 am

    Interesting observation about Christmas concerts! I think the bigger
    issue is Christmas concets used to be community building functions and
    true celebrations of Christ’s birth but in today’s world we are so busy and booked into everything so “winter concerts” are just another add on to our schedules. Let’s slow down and really look at what we are doing and enjoy the celebration of Christ’s birth….. it is time that we take the time to smell the roses and experience the true meaning of life.

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