If you are a general music teacher or the director of your school choir, orchestra or band in the elementary or middle school setting, there is a good chance you have been approached to do a school musical. At this level, we are wall beginners. A first year music teacher with no experience doing school musicals is equal to a veteran music teacher ALSO with no experience doing school musicals. This is empowering and humbling to both types of teachers!
The most difficult part of tackling the project is that your regular school duties of teaching, rehearsing and performing with your ensembles must continue during the process of putting on the school musical. SO how do you manage the time? Fact is, there is no easy way. For some, it is best as a before school or after school activity. For others, they may be able to squeeze in rehearsal time during the school day. However you find the time, make no mistake, this will be an undertaking...
Here are some top level steps to help you prepare and manage your first school musical endeavor:
1) Selecting a Musical: purchase the rights, script and sheet music from a reputable company that is known for making it easy for teachers. I recommend going to MTI’s Broadway Jr. Series. They give you full performance rights along with practice scripts for students, cd’s with music, rehearsal cd’s with a sing along track, directions for choreography and a guidebook for the teacher.
2) Asking for Help: don’t be afraid to let parents and fellow teachers know what you are up to! Undoubtedly, more than a few people will raise there hand to say things like “I love broadway, how can I help”, “I love making costumes, when do we start” or “I performed in my High School production of Grease and would LOVE to help you direct.” (Be wary of that last one.)
3) Creating a Schedule: base the schedule, first, on your needs and be sure to schedule off time that allows you to decompress and regroup. Then focus on when your helpers are available so that you can be sure each volunteer owns a portion of the responsibility.
4) Ask for Donations - DON’T Sell Tickets: if you sell tickets to the performances you will need additional licenses and be subject to scrutiny from the music publishers. Instead, give away tickets that say “Suggested Donation $x.xx”. In most instances, everyone pays the suggested amount. And you can control how many people attend without worrying about IF you will sell out. No one likes to perform for an empty room.
5) And Have FUN: everyone should be having fun, all the time. Yes it’s hard work and yes it’s in addition to everyone’s normal work and life schedules, but it should always be fun. Accept mistakes, laugh, empower students, relax, ask students for ideas, give support… and smile.