A piano recital is an exciting time for students, families, and teachers! What is a piano recital? A piano recital is a public display of musicianship. Like every area of study on display, students stress and work hard in the weeks or months leading up to showing their friends and families how much they've learned. Likewise, music teachers feel a lot of stress leading up to recitals as well! Like any teacher, music teachers want their students to excel, and they want a stress-free experience for all parties involved. Let's look at a list of things that might help everyone enjoy a successful piano recital experience!
Practice, Practice, Practice
There's nothing more stressful than entering into a situation in which you feel totally unprepared. As the student, you may feel embarrassed if you make a huge blunder. As the parent, you may feel frustrated for your student. As the teacher, you may feel saddened, because you know your student could probably have done much better! However, when a student practices, the stress of a possible mistake is diminished, and as a teacher you have a higher amount of confidence in your student's abilities.
Of course, mistakes happen, and any good teacher and supportive parent understands that a student should be praised, no matter how badly things go. It's very hard to get in front of an audience and perform! There's no better way to crush a student's enthusiasm for music than harsh criticism.
Before planning anything regarding a recital, make sure all your parents understand and are willing to participate in a piano recital! A formal piano recital invitation would be a wonderful and classy touch to make your recital a formalized event. You can send a piano recital invitation in the mail, or you can send them home with students. Depending on how involved the parents of the student are, you can even hand-deliver the invitation to the parent!
Depending on where your studio is, how large your studio is, and how much you want to market your recital, you might consider putting a piano recital poster up! This might help remind parents about the recital date in an age where parents and students alike are overwhelmed with a lot of scheduling! A lot of places will print poster-sized paper flyers for you, like Fed-Ex or UPS. You might even have printing capabilities at work that you can pay for!
While you invite parents and families of students, also be in communication about piano recital dress code. As the host or hostess and essential leader of your recital, you can dictate the dress code. You can insist that your students wear concert black, black and white, or simply dress up. The choice is up to you. As far as what to wear to a piano recital as an audience member, it's a nice gesture to dress up, at least a little bit, to show your respect toward the musician and their hard work to perform.
The Value of a Good Space and Good Instrument
Have you ever played music in a space that makes your tone sound terrible? Perhaps you've played piano in a church basement, on an instrument that is out of tune and some of the keys don't work. How did that make you feel as a musician? Probably awful, right?
Set your students and your recital up for success in a space that is acoustically appealing. Make sure that there's no extreme echo, and make sure the students' tone isn't muffled or stifled. A concert hall would be ideal, but if not a concert hall, a church sanctuary or a hall or room that has enough space for chairs and your instrument. When in doubt, play your instrument in the space, and if it sounds clear, unmuffled, and projects nicely, then it would be a suitable place to have your recital.
Make sure the instrument your students are using is tuned, in working order, and all its keys are free-moving. It's no fun to work hard at a piece, only for the piano's keys to stick and screw up your playing!
Make sure your venue has enough seating for all the grandpas, grandmas, aunts and uncles that may attend your students' recital! Some venues have permanent seating, like a theatre or a church, while others may need folding chairs or other options for your guests. Depending on the length of your recital, consider how your guests' bodies may feel sitting in uncomfortable chairs for an hour.
Make sure you take into account seating for your students as well. Some teachers prefer students to sit together, in the order of the program, to keep students engaged and active listeners to their peers. Other teachers don't mind students sitting with their families. This is entirely your choice as the teacher. If your students feel most comfortable sitting with their parents, then consider your students' comfort. Very young musicians might find reassurance with their parents, where older students may want to exercise their independence and sit apart.
Many parents, grandparents and other attendees of a piano recital enjoy having a guide to the recital order. In addition, programs let parents and grandparents have a memento of a special event in their student's life! I would be lying if I said I didn't just recently throw away programs from recitals in the mid-1990s after hanging onto them like windows into my past.
Programs can be printed on special paper you can get at any craft store or office supply chain. You can also print them on typical white computer paper or offer an online document for the technologically-savvy recital attendee!
No matter the kind of recital you are hosting (or attending!), be sure to have every piece of musical equipment you may need in a crisis. Nervous students may forget key parts of their instrument, or in the case of a piano recital, their music itself.
Many teachers will keep an extra copy of a student's music in a backup folder, in the unfortunate event that a student has forgotten to bring their own. If your studio is one that values memorization of music, making sure that you have quick access to a student's music may also be helpful if a student has a case of stage fright and forgets his or her memorized sonata! Quickly pop the music in front of the student, and the show can (and must!) go on!
Additionally, if your recital happens to have need of a music stand, be sure that you have one readily available. It's nearly impossible to project one's sound vocally or instrumentally when hunched over a chair acting as a music stand.
Choose a stand that is very sturdy and that is adjustable to various heights to accommodate each of your players.
Once upon a time, I was a ballet dancer. The dance studio was enormous, and there were hundreds of little girls whose dances at the end of the year culminated in a 4-hour recital. Think about the length of your recital, and keep your audience sane.
If you have a very large studio, consider cutting your studio in half and having two recitals. If you have a small studio and want to make it worth people's while to attend, consider having your students play two shorter pieces or one longer piece to flesh out the program. Either way, be aware that people are very excited to hear their student play, but be mindful of people's attention spans and willingness to sit through a marathon.
You are a teacher! You are respected, learned, and wise. When people attend your students' recital, they expect that you will be the driving force behind the recital's program and the director of events. Make sure you set the tone of your recital in a positive way, reducing stress for parents and students, and making your recital a joyous celebration of work well done.
Greet students and families as they arrive, and encourage students to work out pre-recital jitters on a spare piano in an extra room, or warm up their fingers by running scales elsewhere in the venue.
It's nice to say a few words of thanks to the families of students before and after the recital, not unlike a parent-teacher conference on a grand scale. After all, you are employed by these guests!
A nice touch (but certainly not necessary!) is a post-recital refreshment social. A few boxes of store-bought cookies on a plate with napkins and some juice would do just fine for a recital. If you're feeling a little Great British Bakeoff, making some home-baked goods with a punchbowl would certainly not be unwelcome. Be sure to include cutlery and plates if necessary, and a bouquet of flowers for an air of elegance.
A short social will allow parents and students to thank you, congratulate you and other students on a job well done, and allow your students to socialize.
Be sure to ask before serving any food or beverages in a venue that is not your own, and clean up after yourself and your guests after the event is finished!
Gift Ideas for Teachers
Music teachers are a special breed of teachers. These teachers might see your student for one or two times a week, not the typical five days a week an English teacher might see them! Music teachers are also one of the most personal kinds of teachers. What other teacher sits literally next to your student for a half-hour to 45 minutes per week straight, correcting hand position and talking about phrasing in music? Probably none. So, these teachers might appreciate and value a special gift from your student or your family at the end of a school year or at Christmastime. Here are a few ideas to start your brain ticking!
- A gift card to their favorite restaurant. All teachers want to relax at the end of a long week. What better way than to not cook?
- A gift card to further their musical education or support their music studio! All teachers love to have more educational resources or better supplies for their classrooms!
- An "experience gift." Maybe your city has a special club that specializes in live music! Some of these clubs have dinner and a show for a package cost.
- Their favorite snack or treat. Chocoholic? Salty mix? Coffee-lover? Put together a gift basket and add a thoughtful card, written by either you or your student.
- What do they do in their spare time? Do they enjoy more music in their time off? Snowshoeing? Playing the hammered dulcimer? Football? Sleeping? Get them a gift that encourages their life outside of their job as a teacher and nourishes their soul.
- Creative or artistic gift by your student. This gift requires a student who is willing to work on a special project for their teacher. A special painting, sculpture, drawing, or other thoughtful gift is always treasured by teachers.
Piano recitals and music recitals of all kinds are fun and fulfilling educational experiences. Every recital is unique and fun, just like the people involved in the recital! With the right planning, some contingency plans, and a lot of practice, your recital will go off without a hitch!
And, we teachers are special people. We work hard to make musical experiences wonderful for their students year-round. Whether it's at the spring or Christmas recital, or just to make a teacher's day, teachers love to hear that they're making an impact in a student's life!
Photo by MIKI Yoshihito | CC BY