Sunday, April 12, 2015

Districts Festival from the perspective of the festival coordinator

    If you bring your child to a music festival, it should look like things are working seamlessly. There are many individuals doing set tasks and all are coordinated by the festival coordinator. The festival coordinator answers to the executive board of the District. The following people (and everyone under them) answer to the festival coordinator:
-Asst festival coordinator
-Manager and assistant manager of each performing group (10 people in our case) and conductors by proxy
-Staff at the host site for auditions, rehearsals and concert (usually includes security, janitorial, technology and the nurse)

Here are most of the behind the scenes things that have to happen for a music festival to be run successfully:
Preparation for auditions-
-Months of attending e-board meetings
-Communicating with each manager about choosing audition pieces, conductors, accompanists (if needed) and repertoire. Then, each of those decisions needs to be checked by the e-board.
-Reserving a host site
-Reserving a police detail for auditions
-Communicating with the host site about the logistics of the day. (Usually we are working with a school who has hosted for years, The staff has this working like a well oiled machine. By the time you are festival coordinator you have worked at the festival for at least 4 years so you have some experience and lots of people who are willing to help if you have questions, provided you're not a jerk.)
-Plan for snow day here in the northeast- just in case
-Schedule 3 minute auditions for about 1200 children based on instrumentation and grouping all students from 1 school together
-Find staff to work the audition day at check-in
- Communicate with collegiate ambassadors who will be helping bring students around
- Answer all questions about auditions from the teachers of the entire district.  Some days I received over 100 e-mails a day from the when the audition date was posted until the actual festival (Sept- March) You have to actually answer the e-mails too.

Audition Day:
-Prepare and bring all materials
- Work the audition day (Saturday, usually about 7 am- 7 pm actively)
- Make sure everything is running smoothly. If you have done a good job in preparation, audition day should go smoothly and you usually feel a bit of pride at your hard work.
-You are the "final call" on all questions? What if a teacher registered their student incorrectly? Can they switch the voice part they are auditioning for? What if I forgot a payment? Wrong audition piece? Missed audition time? What are the cutoff scores for each ensemble? Etc.
-Troubleshoot- One year I was coordinator, a pipe froze and burst and steaming hot water was shooting out all over the cafeteria. Luckily it didn't affect any children but it was very close to the instruments and ruined some music. We had to keep the auditions going, clean/fix the cafeteria and move all incoming band kids planning to audition to an area we had not prepared to use. Luckily for me, the custodial staff was fantastic and the site coordinator stepped up to help so I just had to get the rest of the stuff done.
-Collect all materials from all managers

Preparation for rehearsals/concert:
-Months of attending e-board meetings
-Communicating with each manager about  logistics of the rehearsals, needs of their ensemble/ conductor, program information, group rosters, needs at rehearsals
-Reserving a police detail for auditions
-Communicating with the host site about the logistics of the day.
-Plan for snow day here in the northeast- just in case. Our rehearsals/concert schedule lasts 3 days so we need to consider what happens in case of a really bad storm. Usually we plan for 1 day and then just pray really hard. Ha ha. Seriously though, I lost so much sleep the week of the festival because I worried about this a lot.
- Answer all questions about auditions from the teachers of the entire district.
- Hire a printer for the program and the tickets
- Choose a caterer for staff meals and for the hospitality room. Choose the food.
- Keep track of all receipts and paperwork for everyone
- Collect contracts from everybody working at the festival
-Define expectations of how you'd like everything to go
- Prepare schedule that includes rehearsal locations within the host site, schedule for rehearsals and meals, dress rehearsal on the stage and logistics of concert day
- Hire recording company to record concert and make CD/DVD

Rehearsal days-
-Work at check in to collect all paperwork from individual schools, etc.
- Communicate with all festival staff about locations of rehearsals, schedule, etc.
-Clearly define what you need help doing. Delegate much of this work to the collegiates, who are all future music educators. If you have decency and professionalism, you should also be grateful for this help and show this in your actions and attitude.
-Attend 1 e-board meeting
-Run a general membership meeting
- Make sure nothing is wrong. If something is wrong, fix it- or find someone who can help you fix it.
- Again, you are the "go to" person to answer any questions, address any problems. Sometimes you have to make a hard call (Ex.  if a  kid missed rehearsal and you have to tell them that they aren't eligible to participate anymore. Most time the student knows the rules but the family does not understand why we have the rules.)
-Keep a running list of things that are going well or need to be fixed
- If you can, check out the ensembles in rehearsals

Concert day-
- Make sure everything is prepared and ready to go. Again, if your preparations along the way were well thought out, this should be a day where you can be happy about your hard work
- Give a speech at each concert
- Be the "go to" person.
- Make sure all salaried staff people get paid
- Attend both concerts

     Once this is over, we usually go out to dinner and then start preparing for next year's concert.  Although it was A LOT of work and effort, I really enjoyed this position. I was told that I did this position well and I really didn't have many complaints, which I was grateful for. This was difficult to manage my tasks a few times since my boys were pretty young at the time, but I think I would consider doing the position again if the timing was right. I am still seeing high school musicians from other towns who know me (3 years later) because I held this position. They still express how thankful they are for the opportunities that were provided to them.
     Next post: Districts Festival from the perspective of a school music teacher.

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