Music Ed Mentor Podcast #010: Showmanship

Music Ed Mentor Podcast #010: Showmanship

You always strive for truly memorable, enjoyable performances. Concert logistics play a huge role in making sure the show goes off without a hitch, and great rehearsals ensure the music is performed at the highest level. But what about everything else? Really “bringing down the house” takes showmanship.

In this episode, I speak with Michael Levine, founder, and director of the Dallas Brass, about showmanship. Michael shares the “secret sauce” that has helped propel the Dallas Brass to more than 30 years of performance success. Michael discusses accessible showmanship techniques for students, challenges for instrumentalists, and incorporating showmanship without sacrificing the educational experience that is (and should be) the focus.

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In This Episode, You’ll Learn How To:

  • Choose repertoire that helps foster showmanship with students.
  • Adjust your concert pacing to best suit the audience.
  • Consider the visual aspects of your concert.
  • Remind students that they are performers.

Free Showmanship Principles Checklist

I’ve compiled Michael’s 10 “Showmanship Principles” from the episode into a handy checklist for you to download and use as you plan your next concert.

Three Key Takeaways

“The magic word is balance.”

When you choose repertoire, including valuable musical experiences for students is important. Find pieces that help your student grow, but create balance by also choosing repertoire that appeals to the audience, that’s fun, and that creates contrast (perhaps by being quiet or in an unusual style). If you choose a very technical, difficult piece of repertoire, for example, go right into a well-known classic afterward.

“Sixty seconds per talk is a good length.”

Communication with the audience is engaging and essential. It makes the concert more interesting, educational, and personable. But remember: less is more. Audience communication can also be another performance opportunity for students. Perhaps students in speech or drama classes can introduce pieces. They should rehearse these announcements, just as you should rehearse any announcements you plan to make.

“When you get on stage, you are no longer a music student. You’re a performer.”

It’s important that students recognize that they are putting on a show and entertaining people. Teaching showmanship not only helps students develop real-world performance skills, it can also transform your concerts into impressive events. These events will, in turn, become opportunities for advocacy with administrators and the community.


Elisa Janson Jones specializes in helping music educators build, grow, and manage thriving school music programs. With an MBA alongside her degree in music, she is also a coach and consultant to small businesses and nonprofits around the country, and serves as the conductor of her local community band. She has been teaching music for nearly 20 years and currently holds the prestigious position of elementary music teacher at a private K-8 Catholic School in Grand Junction, Colorado. Elisa was a top presenter at the NAfME National Conference in 2017 and will be presenting at state conferences in 2018. She is the founder of the International Music Education Summit and the author of The Music Educator’s Guide to Thrive.

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