Musicianship & Musicality vs. “The Entertainment Factor”

Last night, I attended an excellent choral concert given by our new choir director here in the district. While I was impressed with the concert, I couldn’t help leaving there somewhat down. I talked with the choir director this morning and asked him if he thought the level of musicianship in our groups was about the same. He actually told me that he thought the band was slightly better, which I was pleasantly surprised by. At any rate, what made me down was that even though I thought our groups were musically equal, I knew that he and his program would receive much more recognition for their performance than the band ever would. I think this is due in part to a few things – 1) There are hundreds of kids in the choirs, as compared to a mere 40 in the middle and high school bands – Thus increasing the concert attendance for the choir 10-fold. 2) The choir program here has a rich history of outstanding groups and programs. The choir program also includes an outstanding show choir, which generally performs about 20-30 public shows per year. This helps to fuel the program, and get public recognition. I wish that I could get my jazz band going enough to act in a similar fashion for the band program. When I was in high school, our jazz ensemble performed in the community regularly, and it was a great ambassador for our band program and school.

While talking with the choir director this morning, something occurred to me. I don’t think it will matter how “good” my ensembles get musically. It will matter to me and possibly the students, of course, but I don’t think the audience will care much. What the audience wants is entertainment. So, then, the great question becomes How do I get the group playing at a very high level, and yet entertain my audience? Do I need a gimmick? Do I just do a “light piece” or two on my concerts? What do you do to combine the two? If I can successfully do this, will my bands get more recognition? And, I guess a more broad question – How am I going to improve my band’s visibility in the community, thus gathering more recognition? I may need to launch a PR department! Thoughts?