Written by: Kristin Phillips
Raise your hands… who enjoys performing? Probably very few, but we as teachers can change that impression, and the experience for our students – but making the performances & recitals interesting, fun, and memorable.
As music teachers, we encourage students through very lonely lesson experiences. How many of you have felt isolated while practicing, facing the wall at your music instrument, wondering… “When will this be more exciting and purposeful?!” Since the beginning of September, my studio has been gearing up for our annual Christmas recital. And, although that is our biggest event of the year, other studios do things differently. I have found a recital to be a solid goal for students, helping them strive for that song just above their current level, while encouraging them to continue excelling at their regular assignments. The anticipation is half the fun!
*Monthly Performance Groups – get students together in small (or large) groups to perform highlight pieces for other students… include snacks, games, and “get-to-know-you” activities to build camaraderie within the studio.
*Quarterly recitals & casual performances in venues that benefit others… retirement centers and the local mall are only a couple ideas.
*Annual recital – showcase or highlight seasonal pieces, held at any point in time.
*Encourage students to perform for their parents on a weekly basis, either before or after (or both) their lessons. Possibly award incentives to those who go above & beyond to create performance opportunities within their family.
Years ago, a friend, my brother, and I put on a performance in preparation for Sarah & my MTNA Syllabus Exams, for our parents. We called it the KMS Krew (Kristin, Michael, Sarah), printed programs, made cookies, and went through the entire process of announcing our pieces and giving a bow at the end. To this day, I still have the program, and honestly believe the encouragement I received during that performance has been a driving force in the passion I put in my studio recitals today. Encourage your students to do the same – you never know how much it will be an great motivator to them as they are able to branch out of those secluded practice sessions, blessing others with their music.
*Invite guest performers to give a demonstration/explanation of their instrument to the audience. Have a Q&A session, before, after, or during the performance.
*This Christmas, we may even finish with the song Joy to the World, and invite everyone to join in the singing of the 3rd & 4th verses, as my student leads from the stage (singing 1st & 2nd verses as a solo). Inviting the supporting spectators to participate builds community within the studio, and the student will be absolutely thrilled something like that was able to happen.
*Ask for volunteers. There is NO way a teacher can pull off a successful, memorable recital without tons of help. I have helpers assisting with setup, refreshments, pictures, guestbook, the video camera, sound, cleanup, and more. Parents are often glad to help – just send out an all points bulletin, request help, and it will come.
*Schedule the performance well in advance, to ensure as many students make it a priority & penned-event on the calendar. Confirm with the venue the time, setup instructions, and parking situation at least once.
*Require either a registration fee for the recital, or that the families bring refreshments to share. Your cost to the venue (and expenses for refreshments) is then reduced greatly. With refreshments, families stay longer to converse, visit, and build friendships – ultimately encouraging everyone to call the studio their musical home. Recitals are also great opportunities for local families to realize they KNOW the other students taking lessons… “YOU take lessons here too?! That’s awesome!”
*Prepare students in advance for the “order” of their performance. Where do they sit before playing? When do they approach the stage? Do they bow before & after, or just after performing? Remind them to smile & acknowledge the audience with eye contact… if they are especially nervous, let them know at least before & after performing is fine, but that at least should be expected.
*Figure out if you would like your students to memorize their pieces, and prepare this well in advance. Also, do you have styles to mix up the program? Do students play duets with you? Do they play duets with one another? This year will be our first recital in almost 8 years to have siblings play duets with one another… several sets! I am thrilled.
Teachers, arrive early. Be professional in speech, dress, and interaction with families. Be ready in welcoming everyone, thanking everyone, and encouraging everyone. Do you play as well? How do you order your students? Earlier Beginner to Later Advanced? Or, shortest to tallest (I sometimes would do this if there was a drastic difference & the piano bench were adjustable)? Or, randomly? Or in alphabetical order? Or solos first, then duets, then guests? See! Many possibilities. No one way is the only way.
Above all, enjoy the experience. Be prepared. And have fun. Your students will treasure the experience, and any nerves they have will only serve to drive them forward in their quest to be the best performer they can be – to be like you.