It's no surprise that bringing your ensemble to perform in a
quality festival experience can be an educationally rewarding opportunity for
musical growth. As a teacher, the ability to have your group perform and
receive feedback from experts in the field helps them improve as musicians and
helps you improve as a conductor--and usually reinforces the lessons you teach
from the podium every day!
Along with the musical preparation necessary for success, an
additional important ingredient to remember is to set a pace for the
performance day that will allow your group to be at its best. This means not
packing every moment of the day full of activities, but rather building a
lighter and more flexible schedule into the day. And while it may run
antithesis to common thought, you will likely find that it will make for a more
optimal experience in the long run.
Your musicians need to be in a condition (physically and
mentally) to perform at their best to avoid all your preparation being for
nothing. That means they need to have had adequate rest and arrive at the
festival with sufficient time to warm up, tune, and otherwise prep for the
performance. Just as much as you want to gain the most "value" of
your sightseeing time, don't overlook getting the most value out of the cost of
your festival experience.
Plus think of the ancillary advantages:
- Having one or two fewer attractions added to the
festival day might save you some overall cost.
- One of the things that we know is always good
for young musicians is to listen to other ensembles. Taking the time to sit in
the audience to listen to other groups in the festival is a great and usually
no-cost way to make this happen. (And, it teaches the importance of concert
etiquette and being an appreciative supporter of fellow musicians.
- It's always possible that one of the other
ensembles will perform a work your group is doing later in the year, or that
you're planning to introduce next season. Who knows....you might even hear a
new or unfamiliar work that will be perfect for your ensemble.
- This will help you avoid having to deal with
possible schedule conflicts. The reality of most festival situations is that
for many and varied reasons performance schedules often can't be finalized
until closer to the date, or may change at the last minute. We all know there
are times when events unexpectedly run behind schedule. Setting up an admission
activity for that day could lead to losing funds that were spent on tickets
that will go unused....and the associated unnecessary stress.
Instead, plan flexible activities for the festival day that are
not dependent on a particular time--exploring parts of the city in chaperone
groups, seeing unique neighborhoods or parks or doing some souvenir shopping,
for example. Or simply take the time to hear some of your fellow performing
ensembles--they'll likely be grateful for having you in the audience, and maybe
will return the favor and stay for your performance. What a tremendous way to
Certainly you always want your musicians to have a fun and
memorable experience. However, you also want them to take full advantage of
these opportunities to have a performance that reflects the hours of
preparation you've dedicated (and the true quality of your program) or to
completely absorb the wisdom of a renowned clinician. A "less is
more" approach will usually lead to a quality over quantity result...and
allow you to keep the musical and educational focus that is critical to the
success of your program always at the heart of what you do.