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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Teacher Tuesday: busker performance program for Music In Our Schools Month

March will be here before we know it, so that means it's time to get ready for Music In Our Schools Month! I like to do lots of fun things that get students and community members excited about music while advocating for its importance in schools as well. Last year I shared the 2 activities I do during music classes in every grade, some bulletin board ideas, and a little bit about the "busker" performances that I run throughout the month in this post- check it out to see what I do, as most of what I'm doing this year is the same and all of these ideas have been huge hits for many years! This year I have made updates to my "busker" performance program, so I wanted to share about that in more detail with you today!


The basic idea is to have students, and other members of the community, perform in the entryway / lobby / some other common area with high traffic for a few minutes first thing in the morning every day during the month of March. There is no place for an audience to sit, no stage, and no pressure. I tell everyone that they are not performers on a stage but rather buskers- street performers- making music for passersby to enjoy on their way in to school. Here are some tips for running a similar program in your own school for Music In Our Schools Month (MIOSM)!

1. Make it open to all levels, all styles

There are plenty of chances for students to showcase high levels of skill. For me, this is a chance for everyone to share the joy of music making, no matter their skill level. I have had everything from 1st graders banging on a gong for 3 minutes to parents performing piano concertos, and everything in between. If students want to perform something, I welcome them all. I include dance, instruments, singing, solos, ensembles, rap, classical, pop, and pretty much any other idea that will showcase music making in some way.

2. Limit the performances to 2-3 each day, 2 minutes each

I used to be really strict and limit it to 2 performances each day, but inevitably there are absences, performance anxiety, and other problems that get in the way of some of the performers, so I've let up to 3 sign up each day. To make sure it doesn't go too long (and risk cutting into the school day), I limit each performance to 2 minutes.

3. Remind students the day before as much as possible

As much as I can, I try to give students a sticky note the day before to remind them that they are signed up for the next day. This is especially important for students who have signed up to play an instrument, or who are wanting to sing or dance along with a recording.

4. Write down sign-up's on a calendar to keep track

I keep a blank calendar for the month of March, with any days off school blacked out, on my desk for the last few weeks of February. I announce signups to parents and teachers first, since they have tighter schedules (more on that in a minute), then announce it to all of the students in class. I don't let them sign up during class- they have to come and talk to me outside of class time. This cuts down on students who sign up just on a whim. If they are committed enough to come and find me, they are committed enough to want to perform! It also, of course, prevents those conversations from taking over class time in February! I always write in pencil so that if and when plans change, I can easily adjust it on my calendar.

5. Invite teachers, parents, and other adults to join in the fun

It is so much fun for students to see other teachers and staff perform, and whether they intend to or not, having them participate sends the message that they support music education. Homeroom teachers often get to experience a side of their students that they have never seen before! Getting parents and other members of the community brings even more benefits.for all involved- my favorite performances are the ones where families do something together. Not only is it a fantastic experience for the families, but it gives parents a really positive impression of the music program and allows them to see the benefits that music can have for their child. And you get a chance to get to know the parents a little better as well! This year I am being more intentional about inviting parents and teachers well in advance to give them time to put something together. It already seems to be having a positive effect- I've had several responses from adults who are interested in joining in the fun!

Because the whole point is for this to be laid-back, it can be a very easy and low-stress way to bring music to center stage every day during Music In Our Schools Month. If you are interested, I've uploaded all of my materials- scheduling calendars, posters, and letters home- here to save you even more time!

I'd love to hear if you decide to put together something like this- have a wonderful month ahead!

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