It is finally December and we all know what that means…concert season is upon us!!! I don’t know about you, but I have major anxiety surrounding all things concert. I am master of the “what if” game and worry about every tiny detail. It doesn’t matter whether the concert is very low-key or a huge extravaganza either. Typically concert prep begins in October if not earlier. If they haven’t already been sent home, notes regarding concert attire and attendance are being written. The stage or auditorium is already reserved and a plan for setting up is made. All the things the audience will see, hear and experience is well-thought out and set into motion, but what about what they won’t see? For this post, I’m going to focus on activities to ensure a quiet backstage.

The Quiet Before the Concert

When it’s time to start the show, the last thing I want to worry about is noise from the staging rooms bleeding into the concert. I am pretty sure I remind every ensemble to stay super-quiet at least 3 times each time I see them, but the truth is they are excited to perform and their adrenaline is pumping just like mine. If I don’t provide quiet activities for them, there will be someone inevitably striking a tubano or playing their band instruments or worse. I like to set out several activity stations or large group activities depending on how long the students can stay focused on a single activity and how long they will be waiting to take the stage. The key is that every activity is something the students have done before in class. These are some of my favorite activities.

Small group games & activities

There are great music card games, dominoes, and board games that are engaging and cover so many different music topics. Usually these games work best with 4 players or less, so that limits the group size. Generally speaking, any activity I use as a center is fair game for staging room use. Some of my favorite games and activities include Instrument SpoonsSymbol Dominoes, the Rhythm Trio of Domino Games.

Color-by-note & Color-by-rhythm pages

These are great because they can quietly work on rhythm and pitch reading. It’s an easy activity to prep and coloring is very relaxing for many. There are many options for coloring pages, but some of my favorites are Christmas Music Worksheets & Coloring by SillyOMusic, Music & Math: Rhythm and Addition Coloring Pages by Hutzel House of Music, and Rhythm Coloring Pages: Patriotic Color-by-note by Pitch Publications.

Poison rhythm

In this game, there is a designated rhythmic pattern that is “poison” and teams should not clap it. Any other pattern should be clapped correctly. If a team performs the poison rhythm, a point is given to the opposing team.

Beach ball pass

A beach ball is tossed between two teams so that the ball could be easily caught. I recommend enforcing a gently tossed rule so the game is quiet. If the toss was good and not caught, the student missing the ball has to perform a flashcard correctly. If not performed correctly, the throwing team gets a point. If the toss was ruled uncatchable, the thrower must perform the flashcard correctly. This game can be played with rhythmic or pitch flashcards.

Songs with “the word”

In this game, there is a word (and all its derivatives) that must be sung in every song. Teams take turns singing parts of the songs, jingles, tv themes, etc. making sure to sing “the word” to earn the point. One of the easiest words to use is love. I have also played this game using categories such as numbers, colors, animals instead of specific words.

I hope these ideas for creating a calm and quiet backstage help you get through concert season smoothly and with less stressed. I know they have eased my mind during this high-anxiety time. If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them!

Melissa Angstadt
Musical Interactions

Melissa Angstadt

Melissa Angstadt is an elementary and middle school music specialist. She has successfully completed 2 levels of Orff-Schulwerk teacher training. In addition to teaching, she creates high-quality music games designed for centers.