Monday, February 2, 2009

A Musical School Performance is a Real Education

I visited Minden Elementary School in Minden, Nevada to give a presentation to 4th-6th grade students. But before attending, I supplied Ms. B, the teacher who invited me, with a complete lesson plan. It included what I was planning to teach: an introduction to the Celtic harp in Renaissance England and Ireland, along with a full discussion of the culture and music from that period.

I dressed in full Renaissance period costume (appropriate for a
middle-class musician from that time), and I brought plenty of sheet
music with me, just in case I ran out of what I planned to play.

When I arrived, three boys helped me bring my equipment into the
multi-purpose room where the assembly would be held. Ms. B
even assigned a young lady by the name of Kai, to make an
introduction to the students before I began my presentation.

There were some 200 students gathered. After explaining about
the culture and dress of the 1500s, I performed the following tunes,
with plenty of explanation in between:

1. Early Music-3 French Dances
2. Written by King Henry VIII-"Pastyme With Good Company"
3. Can they name this tune?--"Greensleeves"
4. O'Carolan's music:
"Shebeg & Shemore"
"Planxty George"
"Carolan's Draught"
5. Renaissance Dances:
"My Lady Carey's Dompe"
"Epping Forest"--waltz
"Abbots Bromley Horn Dance" and
"The Green Man"-Double jigs
"Considine's Grove"-Hornpipe
"Princess Royal"--Hornpipe
6. Can they tell the difference between which is an air and which is a march?
"Carrickfergus" and "Brian Boru's March"

"The Water Kelpie"

I instructed the children to hold their questions to the end of the
assembly, and there was a question/answer period the last ten or
fifteen minutes before my hour was up.

Next, I was lead into the library, where I did an additional
presentation for Ms. B's and Ms. Moyer's 6th grade classes. The
students had prepared questions for me to answer as part of their
"Music and Arts Lecture Series". They wanted to know what it was
like to be a working musician, and they asked questions like "Why
did you want to play the harp?", "Where are harps made?", "Where
do you perform?", and "Do you feel unique because you play the
harp?". I finished off the round of thoughtful questions with a few
more tunes.

Next, cookies, chips, and lemonade were served in the library and
they had "Meet and Greet". The kids thanked me and excused
themselves to get snacks. They mixed and mingled like adults at a
cocktail party! The students were all so well-behaved, and it was a
joy to perform for them.

View some great photos in the photo gallery on my website.

Tips for School Teachers and Principals:

Bringing in musical talent for performances and educational
presentations does not have to be a budget-breaker. By utilizing
the local talent in your community, you won't need to provide them
with accommodations or food. Furthermore, musicians are usually
booked up on evenings and weekends, so their schedules are more
open on weekdays and may pass along a discount to you.

Zero in on exactly what they will be teaching and how that
information or performance will fit into your present curriculum. It is
common to ask for a lesson plan and references. However, if you
require musicians to jump through too many hoops to be
considered (submitting lengthy applications, panel interviews, extensive
press kits, etc.), some musicians my simply decide against
applying in the first place.

Once you have invited a musician for an assembly, prepare the
students for the visit. A great idea is to have the students prepare
questions to ask the musician ahead of the visit, as in the above
example. And afterwards, the children can write essays about
what they learned from the visit. Of course, children who have
behavior issues should be warned or simply weeded out of the
classes who attend the assembly.

Take photos and movies of the presentation to share on school
websites and with parents. Make it a big event. Show that you
support the arts in your community. And keep in touch with the
musicians afterwards--They love to hear how their presentations
were received.

Tips for Musicians:

If you are great with kids and have something to teach and share
about your instrument and your music, consider offering school
presentations as a wonderful way to supplement your income and
do something special for your local community. In fact, there are
many musicians who travel to perform for schools far and wide-
performing for kids is their specialty.

The first step to performing in schools is to contact your local
school districts and find out what their requirements are. Some will
simply instruct you to contact individual school principals to see
about their interest, needs and budget. Larger school districts may
have an arts program in place. In these cases, there will be an
application/interview process before you are even considered.

Hone in on what you can offer to kids. Do a Google search on
"lesson plans" and use those outlines and examples to create
some lessons that tie in with your musical performance. Schools
will want to know what you'll be teaching, and sample lesson plans
provide the format for conveying this information to them.

Finally, include a discount for local schools. We need the arts in
our communities, and children need to see people up-close-and-
personal performing for them.

Many more tips are available from my book "The Musician's Guide
to Brides". This book is written primarily for wedding musicians,
but it's also filled with advice about marketing, advertising, and
promoting your business as a working musician. It's available
wherever Hal Leonard Books are sold: music and bookstores, and
through online retailers including,, and of course, at my website at

I'm looking forward to reading your feedback about performing at
school events.

Cheers, Anne :-)

Anne Roos Celtic Harp Music by Anne Roos

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