As music educators, we all know the value and necessity of performance and festival participation, but with so many choices, how do you know which one is the right fit for your group?
My experience as a middle school band director has shown me that choosing the proper performance is about helping students fulfill a positive vision of themselves. This can have a tremendous impact on their decision to stick with music through the rest of high school and even perform into adulthood. These are the elements that I believe make a festival positive and impactful for student performers.
Unfortunately, most festival performances do not have a substantial audience, which has so many positives for performing students. However, a handful of the right adjudicators can leave a rousing impression. Let me illustrate. At one of our festival sites just last year, a middle school gave such a stunning musical performance that the adjudicators were crying tears of joy and stood and applauded them. Although the audience was small, it was impactful! I certainly hope the students will remember that I know our adjudicators will. A standing ovation of this significance is undoubtedly a positive vision builder for a young musician.
The implementation of a performance review means more than you may think performing students. Believe it or not, they do enjoy constructive feedback from judges or clinicians. Outside affirmation and suggestion for improvement are often more highly valued by a stranger than their parents and teachers. Have you ever witnessed the magic that can happen between a clinician and an ensemble? Years later, a student may not remember the roller coasters or trophies from a festival trip, but they will recall the impact of collaboration with a worthy mentor.
Don't discount the “wow factor” for a young ensemble. World-class concert halls offer experiences that make a lasting impression. As a band director, I had the opportunity to perform in the Meyerson Symphony Center with my group. It has been some years since we performed there, but I still have students and parents talk about that experience with me.
"Be the Best you can be, and that will be good enough."
Students love to win! However, talking about winning and or making winning the goal can have some very unhealthy side effects. Although competition is indeed a great motivator, I believe it is better to let students know that they can only control their individual performance and not the outcome of the competition. My father and high school band director always said, “Be the best you can be, and that will be good enough.” I believe achieving a personal best is the best vision and best victory for our students.