Teaching students how to finish a performance

May 19, 2011

Performing

My senior students have been rehearsing for an upcoming performance assessment during the past few weeks. One issue that frequently turns up is how to finish.

Specifically, it’s how to maintain that split-second of silent focus, through which a performer communicates to the audience one of two things: either, “it’s over, clap now,” or, “I’m not finished yet, stop clapping!”

You will never, ever see a professional performer get up on stage and do his or her thing, and then say,”…and that’s it.”

When my students are up doing their rehearsal runs, they will often finish their performances with that annoying little phrase.

Maybe it’s all those years of having to get up and do oral presentations in class for other subjects, all the way back to “show and tell” in our very first years of school. I remember how every one of us used to end with, “and that’s it,” whenever we had to be out in front of everyone, addressing the class for some purpose or other. It becomes a habit.

Or maybe it’s the fact that doing nothing is one of the most difficult things to do on stage. It’s hard to just stand there and be stared at by a bunch of people. One feels a need to fill the silence with something. It’s a specific performance skill, to be able to stand there, confidently and quietly, and just wait for the applause.

The only time in school when I was consistently, actively taught how to finish a performance, was in the rehearsals for school band and choir. That was fine for those of us who were in those groups, but it didn’t help the students who weren’t.

As it happens, none of my current senior students are “band geeks”. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a guitar player which acts as a drawcard for so many metal-heads to my subject area, I don’t know. Whatever the reason, although I’ve got plenty of band players in the junior cohort, my current seniors are mostly the types who wouldn’t want to be seen dead playing in the school band.

Interestingly enough, however, those who aren’t in the traditional school ensemble, do tend to be in their own little rock bands. A few of them get gigs. A number of them have played at the school social. (Yes, I do get them to perform their stuff for assessment.) I’ll be willing to bet my right arm that when they’re up there on stage, never once have they finished with, “and that’s it.”

Yet they do this over and over again in class.

So I’m on a mission: to eradicate “and that’s it” from the mouths of every one of my students, for good.

Creative Commons License
Teaching students how to finish a performance by Gabrielle Deschamps is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available by contacting me.

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About Gabrielle Deschamps

I'm a secondary music teacher, interested in music technology and its integration into classroom pedagogy.

View all posts by Gabrielle Deschamps

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