Seattle-area flute teacher Bonnie Blanchard loves to throw a party, which is part of the reason her annual, flute-studio holiday party is not only a can’t-miss event, but also an event for which her students practice and prepare.
“Not everything has to be a holiday recital,” Bonnie explained in a recent phone conversation. “This is a party, but it’s full of flute playing.”
“Most of the music we play is kind of jazzy holiday stuff,” Bonnie said. “When I first started doing this I would just have the kids come over and sight-read, but that wasn’t very musically satisfying.”
1. Be Prepared
These days, Bonnie gives the party music to her younger students about three weeks before the event and works on it with them in their lessons. Her high-school students sight-read the music at the party.
2. Everyone is Equal
All of the students play together on some of the tunes, with older students playing a few solos as well. “The younger kids look up to the older ones and think that someday they will get to play a solo at the holiday party,” she said.
3. More Than a Holiday Recital
There may be a lot of flute playing going on at the event, but Bonnie is quick to explain that it looks and feels nothing like a recital.
“The traditional recital paradigm is not so much fun,” she said. “I hardly ever have recitals.”
Instead, she holds events like her holiday party, bringing her entire studio together at one time, encouraging them to wear festive, party clothes, getting all of the kids playing together, and giving some of them a chance to play for their peers.
The party itself is a mix of holiday music, pizza, music- and holiday-themed games, and, a holiday cookie exchange.
4. Promote Early, Promote Often
Bonnie talks up the holiday party throughout the fall, letting the kids know she “can’t wait” for the date to arrive.
5. Gamify It!
Bonnie makes up the games herself, including musical Jeopardy games and some music- and holiday-trivia games.
6. Student Bonding
She also gets all of the students to sit on the floor in a circle. She tells them a story and they pass gifts right and left on cues within the story.
“It’s a bonding thing,” she said. “My third graders and my twelfth graders are sitting next to each other and having fun together.”
7. Serious Fun, on a Timetable
Bonnie schedules the party as a three-hour event. She creates a timetable and sticks to it, moving merrily from performing to playing games, eating pizza, and exchanging cookies like a festive drill sergeant. The kids know about the schedule and show up on time, not wanting to miss anything. Their parents know the kids will be ready to go when they come back to pick them up.
8. Everyone is Welcome
All of Bonnie’s students come to the holiday party, regardless of their religious beliefs.
9. Have a Long-Term Goal
Bonnie’s annual holiday party is part of what she calls her “campaign,” to, “Create wonderful people who have music in their lives forever. I want music to be their friend for life.”