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Elementary School Musical

Rules to avoid burn-out and provide musicals for your students'performance needs.

My very best friend, the woman who suggested that I become a music teacher some 10 years ago, is currently a heap of burnt ash after her spring musicals.  I said, "well at least you got the extra cash to help the family."  There was silence.  "What?  You didn't get paid extra for this?"

I write this article for her and anyone else in her position to refer to BEFORE they say "yes" to next year's musical.  The goal here is to love your kids, your job, and to instill love of music in the performers.  If you overextend yourself, you become resentful and burnt out!  I would like to teach the children of my current students.  In order to do that, I need to construct my work environment so that it is humane to me.  Nothing inspires children like a teacher who is excited and passionate about her work.

1. Calculate the rehearsals you'll need, include auditions, dress rehearsals, individual coaching and tech rehearsals.  Double that number if you've never done a musical before.  Multiply that number by the hourly wage you deserve or minimum wage.  DON'T DO A MUSICAL UNLESS YOUR EXTRA COMPENSATION ACTUALLY COMPENSATES YOU.

2. A portion of the receipts is NOT acceptable.  You need to be paid for your work.  A portion of receipts can be a bonus, but that's not the job.  What if there's a snow storm or other event that severely impacts the house.  You cannot gamble with your financial well-being.

3. If you need help, get it.  Everyone needs to be paid fairly and treated with respect.  Without that respect, YOU WILL BURN OUT.

4. Stick to your guns.  It's better to not do a musical at all than to be taken advantage of.  Working for free makes our profession look like a hobby instead of a true profession.  Doctors have hearts and care too, but they don't work for free.  They need to pay back student loans, mortgages, etc., just like you do.

Now that most of your musicals are over for the year, enjoy this episode of South Park.  It's a bit irreverent, but I love it.  Enjoy!


Dee said…
I respectfully disagree with your position.

I do a school musical every year at my elementary school. However, I do the musical that is in the Spotlight on Music curriculum, so it is only about 20 - 30 mins long. The musical rehearsals take the place of the choir rehearsals (after school from 3:00 - 4:00 pm). My set is simple, my costumes are simple. And I do the same musical every 5 years or so.

It is a great experience for my students to really get a taste of what it is like to act and sing and it is not overwhelming for me.

I do not get paid for my time. But I am willing to give up one hour each week (plus the extra planning time) to give my students the opportunity.

Don't throw out the idea of a school musical. Just do something that is short and KEEP IT SIMPLE!

Suzanne G. said…
Thanks for your input, Dee. This post was aimed at my best friend. She teaches at 4 different schools and had elaborate, unpaid musicals going on at all of them. And to make things worse, there were a couple different ones being done! Each school had at least two casts and she was a mess by the end of it.

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