Junior High Band
Organizational Tips

Add Humor to Concerts

Concert time can be stressful for all concerned. A little humor can relieve the stress and make the experience more enjoyable. Even though we had printed concert programs, I announced each piece before we performed it. I tried to come up with something humorous about the title, the band, how we played the piece, or my job as a band director. If I couldn’t think of anything funny, I would explain the difficulty of the piece and how hard we had worked on it and ask the audience to be kind to us. When the audience knew the challenges we faced, they seemed to root for us more and be more appreciative of the performance.

It's difficult to put humor in writing. Many things that were humorous at the time don't seem as funny when written down later. I hope it's not just a case of "you really had to be there." Be that as it may, here's my attempt to share the kinds of things I said:

  1. At the end of Summer Band we had a concert. The students had had their instruments for six weeks. I told the parents that it's easy to tell how good a junior high band concert is. Just time it. The shorter the better. (That concert was generally about 15 minutes long.)
  2. I also told the parents at the Summer Band concert that we were going to call it a success if the students all sat up straight and held their instruments correctly. If the parents happened to recognize anything we played, that was a bonus.
  3. When announcing the Christmas carol “Do You Hear What I Hear,” I would say, "The next piece is a question I ask a lot in this business," and then announce it, but instead of emphasizing the words "Do" and "I", I emphasized the word "Hear" both times, so instead of meaning “Do you hear the same thing I hear?” it meant, “Does it sound as bad to you as it does to me?”
  4. When we played a tune that had parts of several tunes in it I told the audience to give themselves a point for each tune they recognized. When we finished playing the piece I would ask how many recognized 6, 7, or 8 tunes. I would keep going higher until I got to one of two more than there were. Then I'd tell them how many there really were, and we would all have a good laugh at those who thought they recognized more. Other times when I told the audience to give themselves a point for each tune they recognized, I stepped on the podium to conduct the number then stepped off the podium and said, "I changed my mind. For each piece you recognize, give us the point." Or, I would tell them the person who recognizes the most tunes gets free tickets to our next concert (our concerts were always free and we never had tickets.)
  5. Before I started requiring the saxes to play clarinet first, often we would have two or three times the number needed for good balance. I would point that out and say, “You guessed it. This band is over-saxed.”
  6. Occasionally we played a piece that had a recorded accompaniment. I told the audience that playing with a recording is like playing with a metronome. Those of you who have tried it know how hard it is to buy a metronome that goes the speed you go. Then I would tell them if the recording ends before we do, or visa versa, that’s how it was planned.
  7. Teaching band can be hard on a director’s hearing. An audiologist told me that not only had I lost a lot of hearing but what I did hear was distorted. I shared that with the audience and said, "Since most of you parents have ears about the same vintage as mine, I have it on good authority that the performance is really better than it sounds."
  8. When announcing the tune "La Bamba," I said, "We're spelling it B A M B A, not B O M B A."

Several parents told me they came to the concerts mainly to hear the jokes. My wife assures me they were lying.

A word of caution - Joking about the bands sounding bad is fine as long as they don’t sound bad. If you’re joking around and the bands really do sound bad, it may distress your students, and it might put your job in jeopardy.

Video Disclaimer

The attached videos are not perfect examples of how each tune should be played. They are recordings of junior high students, some of whom have had their instruments for only a few months. Also, they are not professional recordings. They were taken by band parents using home equipment and naturally focusing on their own children.

I include them for two reasons: (1) To give you an idea of what the arrangements are like, and (2) To illustrate the kind of performance you can expect from your junior high students.