Every year, I usually play at one or two Year 12 formals. I have played at the Marcellin College Year 12 formal for over twenty-five years. This year’s formal totally went off, so I expect to be doing their formal again next year.
Year 12 formals are a fantastic test for any band, especially because of the diverse range of age groups. Naturally, the people you want to connect with best of all are the students. They have just finished school, so you want to make their night one that they will look back at with the fondest of memories. But also, it’s a significant night for the parents. We need to make their night memorable, too. Then, there are the students’ teachers. They’ll probably be the ones responsible for re-booking the band for the following year, so they are also important to impress.
The format of Year 12 Formals are like most Balls. There are pre-dinner drinks, followed by dinner service. During this time, there will be speeches and formalities. By interspersing live music (where possible) into these sections of the night, the band lays the foundation to building a rapport with the attendees. Obviously, the music needs to be restrained, but picking out the right songs creates the building blocks for getting people dancing later in the evening.
With the advent of music streaming services, such as Spotify and Apple Music, many Year 12 students are well acquainted with the classics of pop and rock music. Add to this the phenomenon of retro music appearing in streamed television series, such as “Stranger Things” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”. 17 and 18 year olds know and love many of the songs that their parents also know and love.
Rap and Classic Hip Hop
Throw into the mix my “rap” repertoire. This includes classic rap and hip-hop from the 80s and 90s. The kids all love Tupac’s “California Love”, Young MC’s “Bust a Move”, along with DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince’s “Boom! Shake the Room”. Being able to spit out all these lyrics over the band’s groove gives the band credibility and builds rapport.
Every year, inevitably one of the cohort’s music students will want to get up and sing with the band. This year, once we started “Eagle Rock”, a student jumped up on stage and asked if he could sing with us. I promptly gave him the microphone. This is another excellent opportunity to build rapport with the audience and his performance was a roaring success. This is a win/win. The students love to see their classmate up singing with the band, and it adds a bit of spice to our own performance.
We May Be Older But We Know How To Rock
When the students see us at the start of the evening, you can see the doubt in their eyes. But, by the end of the evening they are completely converted. They have danced furiously and had the times of their lives. In addition, their parents and teachers have had a fantastic night. All are left with wonderful memories of their last day of school.