If you teach elementary music and are preparing for concerts, then you know this pain: the love/hate relationship you have with your school’s sound system. Whether you perform in an auditorium, a gymatorium, a cafetorium, a classroom, or whatever you affectionately call your performance space, you will inevitably have to deal with amplification.
I am not an expert…
First off, I am not an expert. I am an elementary music educator who, like many, did not take a course in sound, but has gone to several sessions or online webinars to learn more about how to amplify voices or find the correct balance from a sound system.
Second, I learn by trial and error. Whether it be baptism by fire, or years of improving upon learned errors, I know that I will make mistakes when it comes to the sound system. I do my best to stick to my goals: To assist with the students feeling confident when they perform and to make sure that their performance is a safe space for them. Are there years when I wished I knew more about the sound so that the system worked properly? Yes. Many times yes. However, I cannot go back and change the sound system, so I need to learn to work with it.
Start with your space. What are the natural acoustics? Are there any? Are you in a space that was meant to absorb sound, rather than amplify it? If that is the case, then microphones will be necessary to amplify the students’ voices. With microphones, comes speakers to project the sound.
Where do you start?
- Find other schools to visit: If you have the time, find other schools to see what they have and to ask the music educator questions.
- Google or ask experts on the topic: If you can, google the topic or find music techies who have the expertise of sound to give you ideas.
- Budget: This is a large factor in what you can do with sound and your space. We all can dream, but reality sets in, and what we can actually do on the budget (if you are given one) that you are provided.
I have had success with a portable system where I have a small mixer. This setup, the Samson Expedition XP1000, allows you to bluetooth a device, or plug a device as well as microphones into the system.
Two years ago, Lynn Fuston wrote an article about how to amplify your chorus. It can be found here and gives you ideas of microphones to use.
These posts are from one elementary music educator to another on what has worked. The next post speaks to understanding a soundboard if given the situation to have one for a concert.
Amy M. Burns is an elementary music educator, clinician, author, and musician. She currently works at Far Hills Country Day School in Far Hills, NJ teaching PreK through Grade 3 general music, grade 5 instrumental music, and grades 4-8 instrumental band. She is the author of Technology Integration in the Elementary Music Classroom, Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with a SMART Board, and Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with One or more iPads! She is also an author for Online Learning Exchange™ Interactive Music powered by Silver Burdett. She has given numerous presentations on integrating technology into the elementary music classroom as well as being a keynote speaker for music technology conferences in Texas, Indiana, St. Maarten, and Australia. She is the recipient of the 2005 TI:ME Teacher of the Year Award, the 2016 NJ Master Music Teacher Award, the 2016 NJ Governor’s Leader in Arts Education Award, and the 2017 Non-Public School Teacher of the Year Award. You can find out more about Amy at her website: amymburns.com