Open Mic Nights

Forget recitals… create youth-led performances that they look forward to! 

Teens love Open Mic Nights! Promote a supportive performance environment for all skill levels that reflects your teens’ diverse styles and musical tastes. Increase collaboration by featuring bands and group performances along with solo acts. Encourage your teens to lead these events, empowering participants to develop their leadership skills. 

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How to… 

Staff members provide inspiration to all their participants by supporting frequent Open Mic Nights.

  • Create a regular schedule (e.g. 1st Thursday of the month).  Participants stay motivated and grow musically when given a goal to work towards.
  • Set up a weekly Open Studio time and regular set of workshops to help participants prepare.
    • Participants choose the songs they want to learn with the goal of performing at the next Open Mic 
    • Help some participants collaborate to perform the song in a band 
      • Create a band on their own with their friends
      • If a participant doesn’t have friends ready to play, mentors can use youth leaders or other talented musicians to form a band around them 
    • Encourage performances by solo acts or studio collaborations 
    • Performances can include acoustic acts, vocalists, or rappers performing to a track (originals or covers)  
    • Showcase original music productions or music videos.
  • Youth-led event – In addition to performers, rally other teens to help:
    • Design flyers and marketing plans. 
    • Make a setlist.
    • Set up equipment and lighting, and run the soundboard. 
    • Act as the Open Mic emcee.
    • Promote and support the performers
  • Transform the vibe of your music room into a concert venue
    • When possible, set up a stage with stage lights.
    • Encourage dancing, cheering, and an overall supportive environment. 
    • Invite everyone in the building (e.g. Teen Center participants and staff), friends, and family members. 
  • Promote a supportive environment 
    • “We are all still learning” attitude. 
    • Audience cheers for everyone despite skill level (discourage booing). 
    • Ask the audience to encourage/cheer when nerves are high. 
    • Don’t pressure a participant who is not feeling ready to perform.
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Multi-week Vocal Competition

Start your own Idol, Voice, Lip Sync, Glee, Sing-Off, or X Factor singing competition.

Objective: Large-scale performances supported by the whole community and featuring top performers 

  • Large-scale performance in gymnasium or auditorium
  • Modeled after hit TV-show vocal competitions
  • Supported by multiple departments of the Youth Development Organization
  • Feature the music program’s top performers
  • Special event that helps motivate participants to excel musically
  • Used as a tool for recruitment or recognition of participants (particularly older teens)

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Using Performance Games to Help Conquer Stage Fright

Create a safe and fun environment for participants to Create a safe and fun environment for participants to gain confidence performing in front of others

Performance Games help build your participants’ performance skills and confidence on stage in a less intimidating way than a full-fledged performance. These events are perfect for participants not quite ready for an open mic night or other public events. Provide regular opportunities that are fun, relevant, and interactive to help build confidence and a sense of community. 

Performance Games can be used as an incentive or a break from the normal routine. For example, guitar participants could participate in Air Guitar instead of their weekly lesson or vocalists could create a Karaoke Competition.

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How to… 

  • Use popular culture TV, YouTube shows, or late-night talk show skits.  Involve your participants in creating fun team building games and activities that anyone can participate in, regardless of skill 
  • Set rules and expectations for participation (ie. no “booing”) to support an empathetic culture of caring and respect among participants 
  • Keep these activities “in-house” and small scale  
  • When participants are ready, encourage them to raise the stakes of their performances (e.g. perform at an open mic night or showcase event, etc) 

Set up a weekly or monthly rotation of fun activities/events such as: 

  • Karaoke Competition: Using the popular TV show (or any variation of karaoke) singers have a safe way to perform in front of their peers. Set up 4-5 chairs in the same way a car would be set up and have participants sing along to their favorite artist.  
  • Lip Sync Competition: Each participant picks his or her favorite song to lip-sync. The focus is on the believability of the performer. 
  • Air Guitar or Air Band Competition: Performance is mostly classic guitarist moves such as jumping, spinning, headbanging, etc. The audience votes for a winner (by applause) and they win a prize. 
  • Beatbox Battle: Separated into age divisions (13-15 & 16-18), each participant gets 3 minutes to show off his or her beatbox skills. 
  • Singing Bee Competition: A list of popular songs are chosen and presented for each contestant. At a certain point, the music stops and the participant must complete the lyrics. The judging is based on knowledge of lyrics, not on vocal talent. 
  • Battle of the Bands: Form groups who perform and ”battle” each other for the top prize. 
  • Lobby Performances: Regularly scheduled (e.g. once per month) time when a small ensemble performs in the lobby welcoming members and guests to the building. 
  • “Rock Band” Competition: Sign up “bands” of 4 members each and have them compete in a battle of the bands type event using the popular video game, “Rock Band.” 
  • “Guitar Hero” Competition: Using the popular video game, “Guitar Hero,” host a competition in each level of ability. The winners of each level then compete head to head. Overall winner is based on the percentage of accurate notes played. 
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First Take Studio Series

Artist development workshop in the style of a “tiny desk” type performance – only one take.

Objective: Develop confidence and critical listening skills

  • “Invitation-only” music production project for mature participants
  • Participants develop confidence in their artistry
  • Develop critical listening skills through feedback and constructive criticism
  • Teach participants how to learn from their “mistakes” and progress as an artist

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VIP Band Program

Motivate your Very Important Participants to become Virtuoso Instrument Players!

Avoid the musical progress plateau with your participants by motivating and challenging them with an exclusive VIP Band program opportunity. Each week, Junior band participants (age 13-15) and Senior band participants (age 16-18) participate in exclusive Workshops and programs that help build skills in their chosen instrument. Participants in this program are expected to attend weekly instrument and/or studio Workshops to develop their musical knowledge and music technology expertise. They will work closely with their bandmates to build strong bonds with their peers. VIP Band participants have opportunities to play at  higher stakes performance opportunities in the community, developing a sense of pride in their hard work and dedication. 

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How to… 

Participants in the VIP Band Program are divided into two bands.  Each group is typically limited to no more than 10-12 participants: 

  • Junior Band: ages 13-15
  • Senior Band: ages 16-18 

Each week, VIP Band members commit to: 

  • Participating in their choice of Instrument Workshop/s 
    • Attend a at least one weekly Workshop series such as guitar, bass, drums, piano, vocals, lyric writing, music production or music business
    • Each participant is encouraged to stick to their chosen instrument for the entire semester but can change their instrument choice at the start of a new semester
  • Expanding their Musical Knowledge 
  • Learn and apply the basics of music (like rhythm, harmony, melody and notation basics) on their chosen instrument
  • Project – Compose an original 16-32 bar song by the end of each semester
  • Participating in Music Production projects
    • Such as “Sound-alike” projects, iPad beat making, Recording Studio sessions
    • Project suggestion – Record an original song with distinct “A” and “B” sections by the end of each semester
  • Joining a band
    • Learn rehearsal and performance techniques 
    • Project suggestion – Perform in one Open Mic night by the end of the semester

Tracking VIP participants’ progress: 

  • Create a poster board tracking sheet
  • Participants get a stamp in the category activity they’ve completed each week. Visually displaying progress is motivational to the participants.
  • VIP’s must have 3 stamps at the end of each week, 12 stamps at the end of each month

Sample VIP Band Incentives: 

  • First to know about concert tickets, field trips
  • Prioritized Recording Session time
  • High profile performance opportunities (galas, fundraisers, community events, etc.) 
  • Opportunities for a music video shoot
  • Monthly rewards, raffles, prizes
  • Music books, lyric books, pick necklaces, VIP-only party (ice cream, movie night)
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“La Mesa” Performance Series

After performing (on camera) participants autograph la mesa (the table) leaving behind their legacy.
Objective: Build a supportive community of performers with a lasting legacy 
  • Participants develop performance and music/video production skills
  • Participants develop a sense of pride through musical growth
  • Engage your music program’s supporters


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