We had the pleasure of interviewing Allison Rakickas, a junior high school band director in Aptakisic-Tripp School District in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. She’s been in Aptakisic-Tripp School District for 20+ years, first teaching 5th and 6th grade band, and now 7th and 8th grade band. Allison talked to us about how she passed the baton to her students so they could plan and implement a charity concert.
A new performance space in her school inspired Allison; it was a small venue that could hold about 125 audience members. She wanted to give the 6th-grade students a voice in determining how to use this space and decided that they would put on a benefit concert. But first she had to take a risk and let go of the reins.
The students organized the entire project – the planning, advertising, and performing. Students gave presentations to their classmates to pitch which charity they thought the concert should benefit. After voting, they decided to raise money for a local animal shelter, Orphans of the Storm, which was near the school.
Several committees were formed, each responsible for one aspect of the concert planning. One committee took care of the advertising, while another went to visit the animal shelter and took pictures. The students decided who would play in the concert. They chose to perform three pieces as a sixth-grade band and then invited some small ensembles from the upper grades to play along with one of the other band directors who performed a trumpet solo. Instead of a set ticket cost, admission to the concert was a free-will offering, which they found to be very successful.
A finance committee determined how to spend the money collected, while another group went shopping with Allison to purchase the donations. Finally, a committee accompanied Allison to the animal shelter to present the donations in person. Allison said that even though she didn’t know what was going to happen every step of the way, the outcome still turned out great!
The parents and administrators in Aptakisic-Tripp School District were very supportive and happy about the concert process. They all felt it was a great opportunity for the sixth graders to have something special in band and it gave the students a significant amount of voice and choice.
Allison feels she would definitely do a concert like this again. One thing she might do differently in the future is to have a conversation with students about looking at how various charities would use the funds and how much of the donation would actually go towards supporting the cause. That might help narrow down the charity selection. In addition, now that she has done this once, Allison might put time restrictions on some in-class planning activities to ensure there was still time to rehearse.
“Step back, and see what the kids are capable of, and you’ll be surprised!”
Allison’s advice to a music teacher who wants to try this with their students? “Step back, and see what the kids are capable of, and you’ll be surprised!” It’s important to get the students to buy-in to the project and then let them take it from there. What’s the worst that could happen?
If you’d like to hear more about Allison’s charity concert, be sure to check out the full interview here: https://youtu.be/XFqnnAkHMCU