Encouraging students to attend live performances

Barb said: Aug 3, 2014
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

Hi teachers. What do you do to encourage your students to attend live concerts? Some of my students show no interest, and the parents don’t seem to understand the value.

We have a community string orchestra, admission by donation, performing two or three times a year. We have a semi-pro symphony visit our city three times a year, and through our local arts council, students can attend for only $5. We have had a university symphony visit and allow students to attend for free. The music festival adjudications are open to the public to attend. So it’s not that there is no opportunity. The students I am thinking of are mature enough to attend without parents, so it can’t be a matter of cost.

Any ideas?

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Sue Hunt said: Aug 4, 2014
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
390 posts

I’ve noticed that you need to be quite proactive and organise live concert visits.

Promote the concert:
Tell your parents and students what an amazing experience they are going to have.
Talk about the performers. Appropriate insider stories and facts go down well.
Think of some enriching specifics that they are going to learn.
Practice good concert manners at group lessons.

Buy the tickets yourself and add the cost to their bill.
Meet up before the concert and go in together.
Sit together in the auditorium.
Arrange a back stage visit.

After the concert, discuss it enthusiastically at group lessons and arrange the next concert visit, while the first is still glowing in their memories.

Katherine said: Aug 4, 2014
Suzuki Association Member
75 posts

I have the same problem. Families seem to be very busy, with limited weekend/spare time for “extra” music activities. However, as Sue suggests, I arranged two back stage visits with the violin soloist who performed with a regional symphony orchestra (two different seasons). Also, when the orchestra performed The Four Seasons, we spent about 15 min in a series of 6 or so group lessons listening to a couple different recordings of the music, doing some movement activities using the music, looking at the score, reading a picture book about Vivaldi. This made the upcoming concert more interesting and a few attended. This orchestra is particularly good at welcoming families—they make sure to give students front row seats and are open to arranging back stage visits as long as the soloist is.

Laura Burgess said: Aug 4, 2014
Laura Burgess
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
32 posts

In the past, our school has done a certificate program for instrumentalists, that included points for practicing, listening and also going to live concerts. Those who fulfilled all requirements got a certificate.

Elise Winters said: Aug 4, 2014
Elise Winters
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Austin, TX
37 posts

Yes to all of the comments above!

After years of encouraging students to go to concerts with little result, I finally decided to require one concert per semester as a “studio event.” I am usually able to get tickets at a group rate ($10 / person). I send an email to all the families one month before asking how many seats they need. Then I purchase the tickets myself, arrange the seating (I make sure families that are already friends can sit together), distribute tickets & collect payment. I always keep a record of everyone’s seats, just in case someone forgets their ticket.

I release the concert schedule at the beginning of the year along with dates for recitals, vacations, etc. If they don’t attend the required concert they are expected to make it up … and must bring a friend along so that it fulfills the “social” aspect of attending a concert. I request families to tell me at the beginning of the semester if they have a conflict with the concert.

Once I had a family bring 20 guests! … neighbors & friends. :)

Approaching the concert, I send out a video to parents of the piece being performed, some details about the performer, etc. and ask them to share with their child. Even though it’s a required studio event I want them to be excited to go. :) I’ve had a great response from families … they recognize the value of attending, they just need a little extra “push”!

On a related note, my students are expected to choose a piece to listen to every week (”background” listening, sometimes I’ll ask them to do “focused” listening), and also a vocabulary word. There’s a place for this on their weekly lesson sheet. It takes just a minute or two each lesson to have them tell me what they listened to, composer, and three facts (e.g. where were they born). Occasionally we miss a week, but then we get back on track again. They take great pride in their research and enjoy sharing this with me.

This connection to fellow musicians over hundreds of years of history makes their practicing more meaningful … and attending concerts is a natural extension.

Kara Poorbaugh said: Aug 4, 2014
Kara PoorbaughViolin, Viola
Asheville, NC
1 posts

The best response I have gotten is inviting students to attend my own symphony’s dress rehearsals. It is free and I like that the students get to see the professional musicians in plainclothes and more informal setting. They feel that its a special treat and a sort of insider’s/”behind the scenes” look at the symphony. Our dress rehearsal fall on Saturday morning which seems to work well for families even with young children.

One Suzuki teacher in my area does a different “Studio Challenge” each year…this year it was for live performances (classical & jazz). All the families keep track of their concert attendance and at the end-of-year recital she does something fun to acknowledge individual participation & collective studio accomplishment.

Laura said: Aug 5, 2014
Laura Appert SpringhamViolin, Viola
33 posts

Unfortunately many times it seems that parents only make the effort when their child is performing—so in that case, see if a group can perform before the main concert starts, as people are milling in the lobby. I know of many places that do this with different performing groups—I have done this here in Bermuda and also when I was teaching in Cincinnati before the CSO concerts. Then your students are getting some performance experience, but then can go and watch the concert as a group after they have played.

Robert said: Aug 5, 2014
 Guitar, Recorder
Aberdeen, SD
1 posts

There is another option that may work for some: bring a performer or group to your school to perform a recital or concert and take time to interact with students.

*> ROhnstad***

Barb said: Aug 6, 2014
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

Lots of good ideas here, thank you!

Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
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Heather Figi said: Aug 29, 2014
Heather FigiViolin
Eugene, OR
97 posts

This is so important, thank you for emphasizing this. We can all remember the live performances that inspired us to be doing the work we do today so can attest to the power.

1- I keep my studio posted via email, facebook page and bulletin board of family friendly concerts or important violin events in our city.

2- Set a precedent—All families are expected to attend a minimum of 2 concerts a school year for example.

3- Share information about student rates if applicable in your area. I honestly believe sometimes events are cost prohibitive. Look into this and share information about deals with your studio. Also, look on livingsocial.com and groupon.com for occasional deals to classical concerts to help financially facilitate this.

4- Bring the concert to group class! I am fortunate to have some professional musicians as parents in my studio who are willing to perform for us.

5- Stress the intangible value by making it tangible. I literally say

“Going to 1 performance can be as powerful as 100 lessons!”

Wow—that is quite a value. Go onto explain that somethings get emitted by concert artists that you can not teach—you can only experience them in their presence. Explain that you notice a significant change in artistry in the students who attend concerts vs. the students that do not.

6- Have a contest—This fall Itzhak Perlman is coming to town. I bought 2 tickets and am having a contest in my studio to be my date for this performance. To enter, the student needs to write a paragraph on how music has changed their life. I will publish all entries in our Fall newsletter and select one student at random at our first group class.

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