Jazz Up Your Concert Programs

Mike Lawson • Commentary • August 30, 2018

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The doors open, and as the audience begins filing in, everyone is handed a program as they enter the auditorium.

As people sit and eagerly wait for the performance to begin they leaf through the concert program and see the name of the conductor, what selections will be played and who the composers are. They look at the student musicians listed to see the name of their child or family member or friend. If recitals are taking place, they may see the names of accompanists listed also. Of course, there’s the basic information of programs such as the name of the school, date and time of the concert, and announcements of upcoming concerts, and there may even be background information on the selections being performed and biographical notes on the composers.

A concert program is an essential guide to musical performances, and while it serves to inform, the school band or orchestra director might consider making his or her concert programs more interesting. Why not let a concert program go beyond bare-bones facts and make it entertaining in itself?

With some imagination and creativity, you can transform your concert program from a concise listing of details into a lively and enjoyable guide to the students musicians, the conductor, the composers, and the music.

Here are some suggestions of what you could include in your concert programs:

• Interesting facts or anecdotes about the student musicians; these items could be printed next to the students’ names or at the end of the program; humor goes a long way

• Musical aspirations or career goals of the students

• Student essays. A program could include one or two relatively brief student music essays about some facet of music, for example: How Music Changes My Life, What Band or Orchestra Means to Me, Why I Enjoy Playing My Instrument, How Music Helps the World, How You Can Bridge Gaps Through the Language of Music, Six People I Would Like to Have Dinner With and What I Would Talk to Them About (the dinner guests could be famous composers, musicians or conductors). Thoughtful essays will surely impress readers.

• Information about awards won by the students

• Information about any compositions written by the students

• Other musical groups in which the students perform

• Favorite compositions of the students

• Photographs. Photographs could be a group shot of the entire performing ensemble, of individual student musicians, of themes relating to the concert, of the composers of the selections performed.

• Interesting facts about the time a composition was written

• Composers’ inspirations for the compositions being played

• Links to students’ websites

• Internet sites for further reference about the music being performed or their composers

• An email address in which people are invited to send in comments about the concert, the school’s music program or anything else (comments could be published in future concert programs)

Again, outside of basic details, a concert program can be anything you want it might be. The school band or orchestra conductor might want to ask students how they think the printed program could be made more fun and engaging. Also, if any features require research or compilation of information, let the students do it. This will contribute to their education and also help them take more pride in both the concert and its accompanying program. A concert program is a keepsake, and a great program will help students rekindle memories of their days in band or orchestra in the future and look back more fondly of their experience in band or orchestra.

Video Concert Invitations

We live in an age now where video invitations can be sent out to members of the concert community to let them know about upcoming concerts. With one click, an email blitz can be dispatched to let numerous people know all about an upcoming concert. Concert video invitations can be an exciting means to inspire people to come see a local school band or orchestra concert or student recital.

What to include:

A video concert invitation can fun, dramatic, intriguing, showy, electrifying, or anything else you want. You might want to include exciting excerpts of selections that will be played at the concert, interviews with students, interviews with the conductor, conversations between the conductor and the students, snippets of rehearsals, students telling stories about the composers of the selections that will be performed at the concert. There can be student profiles in the video concert invitations. In these profiles students could talk about their academic and personal interests, although the focus should really be on the students as musicians.

Such profiles will shine the spotlight on those students who are selected and people from the community may be inspired to come to see these young musicians in person.

And of course, students who appear in the videos will have positive reinforcement and feel better about themselves and about being a musician.

You can build a mailing list of people by having them provide their email addresses when they attend your concerts and over time you will have amassed a substantial list of names. Perhaps your school can send out notices asking people if they would like to get on your concert invitation list by sending in their email addresses.

You can also send out video concert invitations to local media to have them come to the concert to write about it. Local media might want to include in their articles passages about student musicians profiled in the video invitations. Of course, video concert invitations could be posted on social media where they might enjoy a wide audience. Video concert invitations are only limited by imagination and may be considered an art unto themselves. Whatever you decide to include in them, video concert invitations are a very contemporary way to invite your community to school concerts.

Video Concert Programs

Another concept of incorporating video into your concert programs is to have actual video concert programs. Again, these can be designed in any way you wish but some possibilities could be having footage of students introducing selections to be played and telling what they like about a particular composition or students discussing the composers of the works being performed. The only downside of this is you don’t want audience members playing the video concert program during performances.

Send Out or Post Videos of Your Concerts

With a smart phone it’s easy to film concerts now. A student can film a concert and then with a simple click of a button send it out to many people at once (via a marketing automation platform) or those whose email addresses are in the smart phone. The publishers of the selections performed should be contacted first to secure permission to film and send out video of the musical performances. Even if the compositions are in the public domain, the publishers should still be contacted as the music may be copyrighted arrangements of the public domain compositions. Publishers are listed on the printed music.

Videos of concerts can contain more than just footage of concerts. There can be footage of concert-goers before the concert expressing their hopes and excitement about the concert and then their reactions to the concerts after they are over. Of course, you will want to get permission from anyone approached to be filmed.

In summary, the school concert experience can be enhanced with jazzed-up concert programs as well as video adaptations of the programs or concerts. We live in an age now where people expect new and exciting modern adaptations of the “old” ways of experiencing events.

Harvey Rachlin is an award-winning author of thirteen books including The Songwriter’s Handbook and The Songwriter’s and Musician’s Guide to Making Great Demos. His Encyclopedia of the Music Business won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for excellence in music journalism, was named Outstanding Music Reference Book of the Year by the American Library Association and was recommended by Academy Award-winning composer Henry Mancini on the 1984 internationally-televised Grammy Awards. His books have been praised by such music luminaries as Elton John, Aaron Copland, Richard Rodgers, Henry Mancini, Burt Bacharach, Marvin Hamlisch, Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne, Morton Gould, and Johnny Mathis. He runs the music business program at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York.

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