Thursday, May 2, 2013

Sound Equipment

My school was blessed with a less than adequate sound system when the school was built.  There is a sound system that you can plug microphones into and an audio system but they never put any speakers on the stage!  This equals huge timing issues because there is a delay between the time the audience hears the music and the kids on the stage hear it.

During the first year we were open, I needed a portable system for outdoor events, so my principal purchased me the Yamaha Stagepas 500 Portable PA System.  I love it.  The system is light and easy to use.  After our first grade level performance that year we quickly realized we needed a solution.  The PA system was the easiest and most affordable.  So, since then it has been what we use.  Not ideal but since I don't use recorded music for my performances, it's not anything I have really looked into changing.  Down the road I will definitely look into it but for now it does the job.

Since grade level performances are mainly the responsibility of classroom teachers, I have run into some issues with how our sound equipment has been treated.  At first I was agitated.  How dare they treat my resources this way!  But when I really started to ponder the reasons why things were getting beat up, I realized it was my own fault.  I didn't even know how to use certain audio equipment when I started teaching and I was a musician.  I shouldn't expect my staff to just know!

This year I made some changes to help my staff and keep things a little less crazy for me.
  • I chose one microphone to stay on the stage at all times.  I happened to have one that was of poorer quality that was good for the job.  This saved me from having to set one up for every event imaginable.
  • I created a sound system cheat sheet with tips and rules for handling/using sound equipment and the choral risers.  It explained things like not placing microphones on plastic surfaces that hold static.  Not running over cables with the risers.  Just basic things that I know not to do because I want materials to last.  These are things that a classroom teacher may not realize or think about because they don't use the materials on a regular basis.
  • Requesting resources.  I made a rule about when and how to request my help or resources.  There were many times when teachers would send a student or stop by themselves when I was in the middle of a lesson to ask a question.  This year I told them to give me a weeks notice.  This allowed me to place things on the stage for them (better than having someone not familiar with the equipment doing it) at my leisure.  It also allowed me to make sure that no one else had asked to use a resource for another event.    
  • One Representative per event.  In past years I felt like I was training a whole team of teachers at different times over the course of the year how to use the equipment.  Such a waste of time!  This year, I asked teachers to pick a representative from their team to be responsible for sound and risers.  This meant I only had to train one person per event.
If you are a new teacher, I would suggest getting to know your school sound system ASAP!  I didn't get to know my first school's portable and cafeteria systems soon enough in the year.  I remember being asked the day of an event to set up the system.  I was terrified!  I had never used a sound system in my life.  Make sure you get to know yours because most likely it will become one of your responsibilities.

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