Your Singer MISSED The Concert….What do we do? – Use the 5 “E”s

It can be quite frustrating when we have prepared for months, have a perfect balance, exact riser alignment and then students don’t show up to the concert. Sometimes we are provided with advanced notice. Other times we find out the day of, or they just don’t even show up.

It’s so easy to get angry when this happens! We need to ensure this doesn’t become an epidemic.

Using the 5 “E’s” we can turn these situations around:

  • Explain
  • Empathize
  • Excuse (or not)
  • Educate
  • Evaluate

The first goal is to prevent these situations from occurring as frequently as possible. Next, we need to find a way to address these concert absentees in a way that is most beneficial for their success within our program. If our goal is to punish the missing students (and their parents), we will have missed a valuable teaching opportunity.


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Here is a successful approach to handling CONCERT ABSENCES – USING the 5 “E”s:

1) EXPLAIN

Most absences are avoidable if we accept some responsibility. When we prepare and educate from the first day of school, we will minimize the number of potential situations that may occur. This comes from clarity on our part. Firstly we need a clear explanation on why the concert is important. Secondly, we need to ensure students and parents are aware of the date. Thirdly, we need them to understand it is a requirement for the class. We must not assume students and parents communicate or that they are going to mark their calendar without a clear effort on our part.

How to prevent students from missing the concert:

  1. On the first day of class, hand out a contract with the concert date and have it signed by each student AND their parent.
  2. Give a handbook quiz that is limited to the most important information. Include the concert date and academic value of the concert, and have the quiz signed by the parents.
  3. Provide a clear academic value for the concert that can be enforceable. “Failing the students for not attending, or 25 points off of their average” is either an empty threat, or a consequence that will most likely be overturned. Counting the value of a concert as a unit test is a grade that would be deemed acceptable.  


Once we’ve made a concerted effort to prevent students from missing the concert, we still have to deal with absentee situations, as some may still arise.

When these situations do occur, we need to:


Self-Assessments – teach your singers to assessment participation, sight-singing, concert performance


2) EMPATHIZE

Most students want to come to the concert, but other situations have gotten in the way. Students could get sick right after school and be unable to attend. Their parents could be taking them away on vacation just before a vacation and as a result miss the concert.  They could have a family engagement totally out of their control, a extra-curricular or religious event that conflicts. They could have totally forgotten.

In most cases, whether we are informed beforehand (family vacation, conflicting engagement, last minute illness, or after the fact (absentmindedness), we must still remember these students most likely didn’t want to blow off the concert.

Our most effective response is to separate any potential penalty from our ability to connect with the student and understand the emotions behind their action. Our gut response should be of understanding. We must envision how it must feel if we missed the concert that we worked hard to prepare for.


Post Concert Self-Assessment


3) EXCUSE (or not)

Sort through and separate the reasons why they aren’t attending/didn’t attend the concert. We need to look at each situation with individuality. From there, we need to evaluate the validity of their excuses, academically speaking.  Here are some excuses that may come up.

There are students who know in advance that they cannot attend. Their reasons may or may not be acceptable.

A) Parent’s Planned a Conflicting event – Frequently, the unacceptable reasons stem from parent choice. One example would be parents taking their child away just before the vacation due to 1/2 price airfare, and therefore missing the concert. As a result, this situation may not be avoidable at the time it is presented to us. It’s important to realize it isn’t the student who created this conflict. As a result, we need to have a plan of action when this occurs. 

B) School-Related/Extra-Curricular Event – Sometimes students have conflicts such as an athletic event. My hierarchy of importance states that a concert (academic) takes priority over a game (extra-curricular), but sometimes there is an exception. If a student has been selected for an all-county or all-state competition, it’s sheer accomplishment might excuse the student from the concert. The same could be said about a state or national competition in an extra-curricular club. The same could be said about a religious retreat.

C) Last minute concert absence – Inevitably, a student can get really sick. I’ve had my most dedicated, anchor students miss the final concert of their senior year. These things happen and those students are usually as upset as we are when this occurs. This year, it appears that covid may prevent several students from attending my concert. 

D) The no-show  – This is when students forget, or couldn’t get a ride, etc.  It could also be a parent choice to avoid the concert. These excuses are the ones that may deserve penalization*, depending on the circumstance. 

* in any of most excuses listed above, there will be an “alternative concert assignment“; a penalization will create a deduction from the total possible score on the alternative assignments, discussed later.


Oh Hanukkah – for caroling (add this to your current caroling packet!)


4) EDUCATE

Students who have participated in rehearsals for several months and then missed the concert truly miss out on the culminating experience. As a result, a class discussion ties together the months of preparation with concert. Even the students who missed the concert can benefit from and contribute to the conversation. 

Ryan Guth, the Choir Ninja from Choir Nation, presents a wonderful podcast on how to have a great post-concert discussion. We are the facilitators, and should be helping the students to dig deeply into all aspects of the experience. By having an engaging discussion, the students who missed the concert will become embedded in the overall concert experience. This is far more important than just watching a video of the performance.

5) EVALUATE

Students who missed the major concert missed the equivalent of a unit test. I generally excuse students who are sick. I generally provide an alternative concert assignment for students who missed the concert for parent-controlled reasons, no-shows, and additional school-related/religious-related conflicts.

This assignment is not a punishment; it is an opportunity for a student who missed our concert to learn from watching and assessing a similar performance. When we give an assignment such as researching the history of one composer, it does not connect to the choral experience that they missed. Should we believe the backstory of the composer is truly important, we should be teaching this in class to all students, not the few that missed the concert. As a result, an alternative assignment should be one that truly would best benefit our singers.

If we structure an alternative concert assignment correctly, students will find value in their assignment, the entire class (as well as the director) can benefit, and students will be excited about attending their next performance, rather than be fearful of the repercussions for missing it.



How to create an effective Alternative Concert Assignment

From my experience, the most effective Alternative Concert Assignment is one where a student who missed their student is expected to attend a concert at a local school that features the age-appropriate equivalent ensemble; to be clear, if this student were to attend that other school, they could be in that same ensemble they are watching. Give the students 10-20 guided questions so they can focus on the specifics of the concert. All questions require a written response. As a result of this assignment, both the student and the entire choir can benefit.

 

I have found that students enjoy this assignment, as it gives them the opportunity to express their opinions. The goal is not to test them; it is to teach them to become more aware of the flow of a concert. As a result, they will become move observant in our ensemble. In many cases, the students will want to discuss what they experienced with our choir; with the guided questions that are provided for them, they will have a lens through which that can share.

 

I offer my alternative concert assignment as a downloadable, editable file.  It could be exactly what you need, or something that you can modify to your liking. Download a copy of the Alternative Concert Assignment.

In the end, we want those students who missed the concert to still feel part of our choir; when the choir performs together, they share a special bond. All students need to feel connected, especially if they missed a bonding experience.

 

To Penalize or Not to Penalize?

Regarding penalization, there are very few times I choose to penalize my students for missing a concert. If they missed because of parent negligence, I have a hard time penalizing the student. The student has likely been penalized enough by feeling like they missed out on a concert experience. My goal is to educate the students. I can’t duplicate the concert experience but I can provide a meaningful assignment. I can also find ways to ensure that same student (and parent) knows not to miss again in the future.


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