Friday, February 19, 2016

Year 6: Week 23 - The Festival

It’s been two weeks.

The dust has settled (which in my world means all of the music stands have been put back and random percussion equipment has all been put way) and I’m finally able to take a step back.

Was it a success? Well not everything went perfectly. There were a bus confusion. Performances spaces were set-up minutes before they were needed. Some students and parents were confused at times. Students complained about coming in on Saturday morning. Some students didn’t like the clinicians and others didn’t understand the point of the whole festival (seriously, I think that some people thought that this was going to be more like a carnival with cotton candy).  And there were a couple students who did not represent themselves well behaviorally.

Keep in mind, my school has never hosted or even attended a music festival, (except for one of our choirs who did a small festival last spring). A lot of what we did this year was educating the community and ourselves about what a music festival experience means and what it would take to put on an event like this. Framing the negatives with this fact, the morning truly was a success.

Far more went right organizationally then went wrong. This was largely due to individual faculty and administrators who took initiative and volunteered to run parts of the festival. Could we have been clearer with schedules and locations? Yes, but everything ended up being where they needed to be when they needed to be there. No student missed a performance. Students will complain and many did when reflecting about the festival, but the complaints weren’t philosophical criticizing the point of the festival.

Kid’s complained about getting up on a Saturday.  They complained that the drinks they got at snack time weren’t cold and they ended up with a flavor of potato chips they didn’t like.  If they are complaining about the food, we're doing just fine.  Not every student liked the clinician they worked with but more importantly the vast majority of students thought their time with the clinicians was educationally beneficial.

About 500 hundred teenagers at an event will lead to some behavior issues. That’s in the nature of an event like this. We knew this would happen, not because we are pessimistic about teenagers but because we are realists. While it was disappointing, these students’ actions in the context of a music festival and not a school day made this a meaningful teachable moment.

It’s all good.

There’s two other things that really made this a success in my mind. First off, what this meant for us as music teachers in the community. It is common for music teachers to be invited to work with other teacher’s students, whether its in a festival or in a classroom. How often does this happen with classroom teachers or subject teachers at higher grades? This is something that is really unique in music education.

We had university professors and teachers from other schools working with kids, which created strong connections in the community. Also, this was a professional development experience for us as teachers. We got to see master teachers use different techniques and tricks which were very helpful and inspiring. It’s the same feeling you get from going to a conference.

The second thing that proved to me the success of the festival was that moment right before the performance. When the work is done well and students are in a positive mindset, that moment right before a performance is so much fun. There is excitement, energy, and the joy of anticipation. I felt that before my groups performed and right before the high school students performed during the showcase concert. It was a feeling that comes from being surrounded by positivity, hard work and the magic that comes from creating music.

The festival was an adventure. It stretched my mind organizationally and challenged me as a leader. It was something I did for my school and myself and I would do it again. I’ve already got a long list of things to improve on for next year from people who worked on the festival. This list exists because people want to see it improve and most importantly, they believe in the event.

Festival. Done.


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