Hiring Your School’s Assembly Performers

Are you in charge of booking assemblies for your school?  If so, this article will help make the whole process easier for you, your school and your performers.

Step 1:  Find Performers

Animal programs, musicians, puppet shows, and all kinds of educational performances for schools are available across the United States.  In most locations, there are programs run by school districts or arts councils that offer performers who have been screened and selected to perform in schools.  (One of the best in the Washington DC metro area is the Fairfax County Creative Arts Program (CAPS).)  Asking past assembly coordinators, teachers, and parents for referrals can also lead you to great shows.

Step 2:  Coordinate with your school for budget and dates

Find out what your budget will be before contacting performers.

Double check dates  for assemblies with your school.   Multi-purpose rooms, gyms, cafeterias, and auditoriums are all busy places in the school year – so be sure the room you intend to host your assembly is available on the dates and times you want.

Step 3:  Contact the performers

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When calling or emailing potential performers, have the following information ready for them:

  • Your name, phone number & email address
  • Your school’s name and address
  • The age and number of students that will be attending the assembly(s)
  • The dates and times you are looking at (try to have a few options)

Step 4: Questions to ask the performer before booking

What does the performer charge? Your total cost will be based on the number of shows you want, the number of students attending the shows, your location, and the timing of your shows.

Are there any requirements/restrictions for the performance? Requirements may include:  close parking, indoors vs. outdoors, stage, grade level, maximum audience size, etc…

Is the performer properly insured/licensed for the type of show they are performing? Insurance is a must, especially for live animal shows.   Licensing is not required in all jurisdictions, however, it is smart to know if your area requires permits before hiring performers to come into your school.  Performers that include mammals (even a magician with a live rabbit) in their shows must have a permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  In Virginia, all performers exhibiting live animals  (including birds, fish and reptiles) must have a Permit to Exhibit Wildlife from the VA Department of Game & Inland Fisheries.

Can the performer provide at least 3 references for you to contact? The best way to find out if the performers you are hiring will be safe, reliable, educational, and fun is to ask the people that have previously hired them.  And the best performers will be happy to provide you with references.

Step 5: The Booking Process

Contact the performer as soon as you are able to commit to a booking.  Popular assembly performers can get booked up months or even a year in advance, so the earlier you can book your shows, the better.  However, only book when you are ready to commit to the date, time, and cost.  Clients who cancel or change their bookings are a hard ship to professional performers.

After you make a booking, a professional performer will send you a contract, invoice, or letter of agreement.  Read the paperwork they send you carefully.  Verify the show date(s), time(s), location(s), and agreed to fee is listed correctly.  Note if a deposit is required, when payments are due, and what payment types are accepted.

Be sure to check for a cancellation policy and for any other requirements (such as close parking) that performers may need.  Contact the performer as soon as possible if you have any questions about the contract or show set up requirements.

Send the signed contract and/or deposit in a timely manner.  Performers could cancel a booking if the client fails to send in the required paperwork or deposit on time.

Now that your show is booked, the next step is getting ready to host your school’s assembly.  Look for that information in our next posting.

Happy School Year!

Snake Heads (and we’re not talking fish!)

You are in the garden.  As you bend down to pick a tomato, you see a:  snake!  Whoa – that snake has a triangular shaped head!  Is the snake venomous?

Many people mistakenly believe that all snakes with triangular shaped heads are venomous.  And not just people: a recent study in Spain has even shown that predators such as hawks and eagles will often avoid snakes with triangular heads!  Valkonen, J., Nokelainen, O., & Mappes, J. (2011). Antipredatory Function of Head Shape for Vipers and Their Mimics PLoS ONE, 6 (7) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022272

The fact is, however, that many harmless snakes mimic the viper-like head shape when they are frightened.   Harmless snakes including garter snakes, rat snakes, and water snakes will flatten their heads and bodies when they feel threatened.  And snakes in the garden feel threatened when they see people.

So is there an easy way to know if a snake is venomous or harmless?  No, not really.  Herpetologists and snake experts learn to identify snakes using a variety of physical characteristics.  There is also individual variation within species: albinism, melanism, and pattern variations that occasionally occur can cause confusion when trying to  identify a snake.

At Reptiles Alive, we suggest that people  just leave all snakes alone.  If you leave snakes alone, snakes will leave you alone.  That way it  does not matter whether the snake is venomous or not  – even venomous snakes will leave you alone if you don’t bother them.

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Comparison of Snake Heads

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Northern Brownsnake

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Harmless Eastern Gartersnake

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Harmless Common Water Snake