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Preparing Your Students for Recitals (Part 3)

April 1, 2010
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Recitals are a wonderful way for students to gain experience andproficiency in performing.  There are many elements to learn whenbeginning to participate in recitals.  Helping your students know whatto expect and providing them with many recital “practice” opportunitieswill create comfortable and confident performers.  Below is the last ina series of 3 articles on preparing your students for recitals.

Note: in this article the pronoun “him” is used for simplicity’ssake to refer to a single student, but no gender bias is intended orimplied.

(Part 3) Final Preparations

(1) Run Through/Dress Rehearsal. Aside from the actual event, thetime just before a recital can be the most exciting for you and yourstudents.  At this point all of the music should have been learned and the fun of performing can really come through. One or two lessons prior to the recital is a great time to hold dressrehearsals for your students.  This can be done easily with eachstudent during the regular lesson time.  Dress rehearsals provide theopportunity for students to fine-tune aspects of their performance,learn what to expect during the recital, and run through the variouselements of a recital in order.  In a dress rehearsal you will haveyour student run through everything as if it were the real event, suchas:

(a) Have your student sit in the performer seating area (either theactual part of your studio where your students will sit, or in thegeneral area of where it will be at your recital venue)
(b) Then greet your imaginary guests
(c) Once your greeting is concluded your first performer will take thestage.  If the student you are working with at the time is not going tobe the first performer then verbally go through the list of performersprior to your student.  Then when it is your student’s turn he willwalk on stage.  Be sure to clap at his entrance.
(d) He will bow, take his seat at the piano, and make any needed adjustments to the bench.
(e) He will then perform his piece while you sit quietly and observe as an audience member.
(f) When he is finished playing clap for him as an audience would sothat he will bow.  If he has another piece to perform he will sit downagain and play the next piece.  Or, if/when he is finished he will exitthe stage.

Once you have gone through all of these steps, take the opportunity todiscuss the piece(s) your student played and how his performance went. If any fine-tuning is needed it can be done at this time.  At the endof the dress rehearsal remind your student to be positive, to do hisbest, to let go of silly mistakes (the audience likely won’t evennotice), to keep going no matter what, and to accept compliments at theend of the recital.  And, as an added bonus let your student know howproud you are of his accomplishment and offer positive reinforcementthat he can do a good job at the upcoming recital.

If your student seems confused or hesitant during any of the stepsin the dress rehearsal be sure to practice with him again!  It isimportant for your student to be confident and comfortable with what isgoing to happen at the recital.

(2) Last Minute Details.  There are always last minutedetails or additional items of information that should be conveyed tostudents prior to a recital.  It is best to discuss these things withyour students one or two lessons before the recital.  As an additionalhelp you can provide parents with a letter or flier with all of thepertinent information related to the upcoming event.  This letter orflier can be handed out at the lesson, sent in the mail, or sent viaemail.  Below are some topics which should be discussed with yourstudents prior to the recital:

— A. The order of the program.  Students can be veryanxious about where they fall on the program.  Some students do notrelish the idea of being first while others love to be done early sothat they can relax and enjoy the rest of the performances.  Otherstudents (particularly nervous performers) can’t stand the idea of having to wait all the way to the endof the recital to perform, whileothers enjoy being the final performance in the program.  I have foundthat telling my students in advance where they will be on the program(at least in general terms — at the beginning, near the middle, at theend) helps them to mentally and emotionally prepare for the experience,which in turn results in better performances.  If your student does notknow his placement in advance and instead finds out upon receiving aprogram at the recital he may experience additional and unnecessaryanxiety.  This really is not fair to him!

— B. Dress Code. Students should be informed of what theyare to wear at the recital.  For instance, is the recital a formalrecital, a casual dress recital, a theme or costume recital?  If therecital is formal wear, but your student unknowingly shows up in jeansand a sweatshirt he may feel awkward and uncomfortable.  Unfortunatelysomething as simple as a choice in clothing can cause a student to losefocus during his performance and make silly mistakes.  Provide yourstudents with the best opportunity to perform well by discussing inadvance what they should wear to the recital.

— C. Timing and Location.  Another important detail todiscuss with your students (and their parents!) is where the recital isgoing to be, and at what time they should arrive.  For instance, is therecital going to be at your studio or in a music store?  If the recitalwill be at a music store instead of your studio then be sure to providedirections to the store, and also include instructions for how to findthe recital room once inside the store.  Students who arrive lateand/or do not know where they are going tend to be more flustered andnervous.  Additionally, if your students need to arrive early in orderto warm-up, or to find their designated seating area, etc. then be sureto make it clear that they need to arrive at a specific time that isprior to when the recital will begin.

When preparing students for recitals keep in mind that it isimportant to provide them with the BEST chance of success at everyopportunity.  Help create opportunities for your students to learnearly on that sharing music with others can be a highly rewarding andexciting experience (and not something to be feared)!

I hope that your studio recitals will be full of joy and success, for both you and your students!

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