Surviving Recital Season

Recital season is in high gear. This is the time of year where school wraps up, and our piano students take the stage to prove to their parents that we do indeed teach them something.

As a student, I dreaded recitals. Stage fright is still an issue I deal with today. But I never imagined that my teacher was nervous too! Every time a student goes up to play, I find myself holding my breath, folding my hands in my lap, and looking at the program so I don’t give away my anxiety or any mistakes they may make.

It’s only natural that a proud piano teacher will want the recital to be an awesome experience for students, and an impressive experience for parents. But in this age of “more more more,” I want to put recital preparation into perspective.

Recital Venue.

I’m really lucky that my church lets me use the sanctuary space for our recitals. All they ask is that we bring a food donation for the pantry. So, I ask each student to bring a few canned items to the recital. The church has a baby grand piano, and the acoustics are nice, and I don’t have to pay. So I don’t need to charge a recital fee.

If you’re not lucky enough to belong to a church where you can use their space, consider asking a nearby church about having your recital there. Offer to bring a donation of food or clothing as a tithe. If that doesn’t work, reach out to the local nursing homes or assisted living facilities in your town. Many of them have a nice space for recitals, and the residents LOVE hearing kids play, no matter their skill level.

I’ve also heard of teachers having outdoors recitals at their home (which I’m considering but haven’t tried yet). Set up a digital keyboard in your backyard under a pop up tent. Have the parents bring their own lawn chairs, and voila! What a nice memory for the students, and a relaxing time for the parents.

Student Participation.

I have seen a lot of teachers stressing if they can’t get every student in their studio at the recital. To me, that’s an incredibly unrealistic expectation. I run a studio of around 20 students, and I highly doubt I’ve had a week where every student came to their lesson. Someone is bound to have something come up. So why is it we expect 100% attendance at the recital?

If I have more than half my students attend the recital, that’s a success for me. The students who can’t attend record their solos, and I play the video as part of the recital. This way, they get the experience of learning a piece really well by a deadline, and performing it, even if it’s only for the camera.

Memorization.

I think memorization is a really useful tool, and that it’s good for the brain. However, I don’t require it for every student. Half of my students memorize easily and we don’t even have to discuss it. And memorization is always a goal. But if it’s the week before the recital, they can play the piece really well but it’s not memorized, I’m going to let them perform with the music. Because in the end, I’m showcasing all the work they’ve put into their piece(s) and giving them a performing opportunity.

Programs.

I have seen some very fancy programs. You know, it doesn’t really matter. Of course you want it to look nice, but does it have to be on the fanciest music stationary with a custom font? No. Do you need 200 copies? No. (Email it out before the recital, people! Save a tree.) I aim for two copies per family.

Spell the student’s name right, put the right piece on the program, and have it formatted nicely. I print one copy the weekend before the recital and show it to the students at their lesson so we can double check together that everything’s correct.

One more point here: You don’t have to invent the wheel. There are very talented teachers out there who have designed recital programs and all you have to do is customize them for your event. Here’s a few:

Joy Morin from colorinmypiano.com has a nice recital program template on her site that I’ve used a few times.

Teach Piano Today is also one of my go-to sites. They have a few recital program templates.

Susan Paradis has some nice certificates for recital participation, and you can change them up to give out awards too.

I have a Halloween template, a Christmas template, and a spring template for my recital programs. Each year I just copy it to a new doc, switch out a few images, and maybe change the font if I’m feeling adventurous. I’m a piano teacher, not a designer!

Food and Decorations.

My recitals are always a potluck type affair. The first year I said “bring whatever,” and everyone bought pastry, so after that I give my parents a few options for what to bring. This is a great way to build community within your studio, too.

I have never decorated for a recital, but I’ve seen teachers make custom favors, balloons, and cakes. Personally, that’s a little much for me. If doing that kind of thing floats your boat, please do. But if making the perfect cake stresses you out, then don’t do it! I do put together little goodie bags for each student with small things like pencils, erasers, bubbles and a little candy or gum.

Less is more.

What I’m trying to say is, less is more. These parents and students see you on a weekly basis. You don’t have to go crazy over the recital to prove to them that you care, or that you work hard, or that it’s important. The students will remember that you and their parents were there, they’ll remember playing, they’ll remember another student who played a cool song, and that’s about it.

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