It’s that time of year when classroom guitar teachers are putting together concerts. Of course, any time of year is a good time to put together a guitar concert. Nothing, and I mean nothing, will motivate students and stimulate practice like concert preparation. Besides motivating practice, the concert allows the parents and administration to see and hear the progress of the students. The social aspect of the concert is another plus for the students. Besides learning the skills needed to play the music, they learn all of those non-musical skills like being dependable, teamwork, and the joy of success that follows performance. I’ve been able to travel around the country and observe classroom guitar concerts and have seen all of the benefits I have mentioned. In every observation, the benefits of putting together the guitar concert far outweighed the struggles that may have occurred prior to the event. Many of the more successful concerts, regardless of the size of the class, had some commonalities.
Ingredients for the Successful Classroom Guitar Concert
The successful classroom guitar concerts I have attended were well prepared. The students were set up and knew about concert performance etiquette including:
- how to enter and exit the stage
- looking comfortable (looking like they are enjoying themselves)
- watching the conductor
- being appropriately dressed
- being on time
Their musical skills included:
- being in tune
- knowing when and when not to play
- playing with dynamics
- playing with good tone
- playing rhythmically correct
- knowing their part
- being able to blend with the group.
What to Play
The classroom guitar concert should contain appropriate music. The repertoire should be appropriate for the skill level of the students, and also appropriate for the occasion. Remember, the performance is for the students and also for the audience. Keeping the audience in mind, be aware that the concert does not need to be long. I’ve seen very successful concerts that were forty minutes in length.
Variety to Spice Things Up
Variety always makes for a more successful classroom guitar concert. The music performed can and should be from a variety of musical styles. The programming can also have variety to benefit the audience and the students. For example, the guitar concert could contain pieces for guitar ensemble, soloists, duos, and trios. In the guitar ensemble pieces, the guitars can play the parts as they are written, or additional instruments such as bass and drums could be added to augment the sound. In the online component of the Consonus curriculum, backing tracks are provided for many of the ensemble pieces. Students can practice their parts with the backing tracks in individual practice, or class rehearsal. The backing tracks can also be downloaded by the teacher and played at the concert to accompany the ensemble.
The ensemble could also accompany other instruments. For example, I heard a guitar ensemble accompany a violin and flute. The teacher had the violin and flute play the first guitar part and the guitar ensemble played the other parts. It was wonderful. I also heard a guitar ensemble accompany a choir. This blending creates not only a great musical experience, but also builds bonds between the classroom guitar program and the other music programs at the school.
With an ever-growing library of music available for guitar, classroom guitar teachers have a vast repertoire of music available for the guitar concert. I know that many teachers are doing much of what I have described. Hopefully you can expand on what you are currently doing. For those who are new to classroom guitar, I hope this will give you some ideas on what can be implemented to put together a wonderful concert that will be remembered by those participating and those observing as a positive and enriching experience.