We are well into the summer term now and I am sure that you have already had some performances outdoors. I wanted to share my Top Ten Tips for Summer gigs – I hope there is something here for you!
- If you are doing a gig outside make sure you & students take Pegs or Elastic bands to hold down music. I make all my students keep pegs in their instrument case. An essential tool to combat the wind. Even the sunniest days have wind.
- Make sure that you check if there is power at the venue. Often Summer Fayres are outside, far away from a building and if you need power it is hard to get. A generator is never a good idea due to the noise. Take an extension lead with you, a long one, that way you are prepared.
- If it is a new venue or location then I would do a site visit so that you know what to expect. I find that there is often actually more room than you are told and often organisers can panic about things. Go along, meet them and chat over what you need and what you are bringing. Find out about parking and access whilst you are there.
- Say YES to at least one local school Summer Fayre. Remember, students in First, Primary & Middle schools will eventually go to your school – assuming you are secondary. Preforming for potential future students and parents is a really good idea.
- If local businesses ask for performances then ask them for a donation. Don’t do it for free, and trust me, they will say yes if you ask.
- Make sure that you know how long you need to play for and time your pieces in rehearsal. There is nothing worse than finishing early and having an organiser look to you for more music.
- If you are using backing tracks then make sure the PA system at the venue has a fold-back monitor – or take one with you. When music is blaring out across a field or park then it can often be hard to hear and things can go very wrong! I find that very often the PA system is old and not massively fit for purpose, so go prepared. Also don’t rely on CDs – take various options with you and also take a lead to plug into the PA system that you know will work for your iPhone or whatever you have.
- Work out a wet-weather plan. Sometimes in the past I have said YES to an event and then it has been raining in the morning and yet the organiser wants to go ahead. Make sure you prepare in advance for this and say to students that it will go ahead come rain or shine!
- Make sure the repertoire is fun, well known and popular, especially if performing at a summer fayre. People want to be cheered up by the music and love to hear things that they know.
- Make sure students know what to wear, especially if it is hot. Ditch the uniform if it is warm and maybe have a polo t-shirt for your department that they can wear. There is no need for students and staff to boil in the midday sun just for a gig. People will understand and the music will be the main thing they will remember.
I guess the basic message is – BE PREPARED. Gig outdoors are always harder work than you think, but the impact for the community is excellent. Performing in local schools is great for PR and great for your school music. I do the same gigs year in year out and so I have refined what I do. If I do take on something new I weigh up the benefits. Ultimately if it is a weekend then students need to be excited by it in order for them to turn up. Sometimes I explain that we are doing a gig for a reason and they buy into that. But often I will make sure that they just have fun as they are also giving up their time. Taking sweets, water and snacks along always helps, or just buy them all an ice-cream! Getting out and playing is however something that students love and so hopefully it will be an easy sell.
And even though I do it every year, I wouldn’t recommend the back of a lorry in a carnival! We do one every year and it is quite hard work. But we love it and it is part of our annual calendar. But I have got used to it and we love it – it is like surfing whilst playing an instrument!
All the best for the summer and if you don’t have many gigs this year, then maybe think about booking some for next year!