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How to Grade a Concert Performance

Concert performances can be assessed in a multitude of ways; perhaps the most fair and least time-consuming way to grade our students is by using a rubric. In addition, the most educationally beneficial way to evaluate student performance would be through self-assessment.

Why use a rubric to assess student concert performance?

A rubric allows students to be graded on predetermined factors. By communicating these factors prior to the concert, our students will have ample opportunity to meet these expectations. When we set clear expectations, our students will be able to take the tangible steps toward success.

What factors should be used for grading a concert?

A rubric should be set-up for all students to have the ability to be successful, regardless of their ability level. If students are inherently unable to be successful, most will lack the motivation to try. When our rubric contains the most important elements of a successful performance, students will see the specificity of the actions they must take.

Additionally, we should view a graded performance through the lens of both the individual and the collective experience; as a result, we should assess the entire ensemble’s performance as well.


Alternative Concert Assignment – what to do when they miss the concert


Here are the non-negotiables I choose for individual evaluation: 

-being on time

-being fully prepared/dressed appropriately

-being focused immediately during the pre-concert warm-up

-demonstrating proper body alignment throughout the performance

-acting appropriately between songs

-demonstrating consistent eye contact with the conductor

-exhibiting positive and engaging demeanor throughout the performance


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Here are the non-negotiables I choose for ensemble evaluation:

-how ensemble enters the risers/stage professionally

-how ensemble exits the risers/stage professionally

-ensemble’s level of focus throughout the entire performance

-ensemble’s level of professionalism between songs

-ensemble’s quality of tall, refined vowels

-ensemble’s range of dynamic contrast

-ensemble’s ability to emote/connect to the music, each other, and the audience

-ensemble conveying a positive and engaging attitude on stage

-ensemble’s level of respect and professionalism when not performing (if sitting in audience to watch other groups, or in the waiting area)


Trick or Treat Halloween Round (2-8 part) – fun, tongue twister – valuable teaching tool!


Why use the rubric as a self-assessment (rather than teacher-graded)?

There are several key factors for having the students grade their own performance (individually and collectively):

  1. By giving students a copy of the rubric prior to the concert and discussing each evaluative factor, they will have a clearer understanding of what success looks like.
  2. When it comes to managing all aspects of a performance, we have so much on our plate; the last thing we should want to do is focus on the little things. Just because we shouldn’t be focusing on little things doesn’t mean those little things aren’t important. Students have the ability to assess their own performance better than we do, since this is their main responsibility.
  3. A rubric gives students a chance to self-reflect independently on their performance, which can help them to improve for future performances.

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Preparing the students for their self-assessment

The evaluative aspects that appear on the concert self-assessment should be explained prior to the concert. Students should have a copy of the self-assessment in their hand prior to the concert; we should take a solid 10 minutes to explain each and every line of the self-assessment in advance of the concert.

The day after the concert, we should hand out a new copy of the self-assessment form and go over it line by line; students should only complete the line as we are discussing it; this gives us the opportunity to elaborate on specific points prior to their assessment.

Options for self-evaluation on my post concert self-assessment: “completely”, “mostly”, “somewhat”, “not at all”

Since the score ratings are rather generic, the rubric does require a bit of explanation or direction from the teacher. The level of explanation for each line should allow students to truly understand how to rate themselves. An example of a line-by-line explanation would be:

action: being on time

“Only check off  ‘completely’ if you were in your assigned seat prior to the beginning of the warm-ups and you began immediately. If you were physically on time but not ready to warm-up with the group immediately, please mark down ‘mostly’ because you were not on task, which makes you late.” I noticed 5 or 6 of you arrived late to the concert warm-up; please mark down ‘somewhat’ if you arrived within 5 minutes of the scheduled arrival time. Beyond 5 minutes late, you should write down ‘not at all’ because you were simply not on task.”


Sight-Singing Developmental Rubric – for developing students who lack underlying sight-singing skills


Scoring & Grading a Concert Self-Assessment

The main goal of self-assessing the concert is to help students to gain awareness of their individual and collective performance; students should generally score very well on their overall assessment.

We want to encourage our students to be open, honest, and allow this to lead into a class discussion. I would recommend having a group discussion about the concert after filling out the assessment form.

How to grade students who missed this concert

Self assess their way toward success

I use a self-assessment rubric for regular rehearsals, a different one for pre-concert rehearsals when students are off-book, one to evaluate their concert participation, and one for weekly voice classes. All of these rubrics are slightly different in their layout/grading scale and are used either once or twice per 10 week period; I modify my rubrics based on the needs of my ensemble; this is why the ones that I share on my website are all editable, so they can be adjusted to fit each director’s needs.


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By | 2018-10-25T05:51:48+00:00 October 23rd, 2018|Assessment, Concert Season, rubrics, Self-Assessment|

About the Author:

Adam Paltrowitz is a master educator, composer, conductor, and clinician. During his 20-year tenure as the Director of Choral Activities at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School in New York, his groups have toured throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States. He also has pioneered a philosophy that every student is a soloist. Adam's choral program has also gained great acclaim for the cultivation of eight student-run a-cappella ensembles; some of these ensembles have performed on national and local television programs. His compositions and arrangements have been performed by choirs around the world. Adam earned his B.S. in music education from New York University, M.A. in vocal pedagogy from Columbia University - Teacher's College, and Ed.M. choral conducting from Columbia University - Teacher's College. ​Adam resides in Manhattan with his wife, Blair Goldberg, a professional Broadway actress, and their daughter, Lyla.

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