In the months of practice that lead to a concert it's easy for young students (and sometimes older ones) to forget that performances are geared toward an audience. We teachers must constantly remind our students that a primary job of any performer is to communicate a musical idea to the listener. One way to do this is to turn some members of your ensemble into the audience!
During rehearsal choose a few students to spread out in the concert hall or some distance away from the ensemble. After playing a passage ask the students in the hall to tell the rest of the group what they heard. Students are often more receptive to feedback from a peer than a teacher. (And let's be honest, they've heard it from you a million times, right?)
This is a fun way for students to develop a stronger understanding of how the band should sound as a whole. The experience of listening from the audience is totally different from what students are accustomed to. Try to do it a few times and send different groups of students to the audience to be listeners. They will return to their seats with a new perspective.
This can also be an effective way to improve aspects of performance. Tell the listeners to listen for something specific. For example, "do you clearly hear the brass articulation in this passage?" or "listen for the percussion balance." Be sure to guide students so they give constructive feedback (middle schoolers are known for their brutal honesty).
When structured in a positive way this activity can be a great motivator for students and also a great learning experience. They will develop listening skills, learn to critique, and improve their own performance.
Tips for Band Teachers
Practical ideas for your elementary and middle school band class.