Preparing Your Students for Recitals (Part 3)

Recitals are a wonderful way for students to gain experience and proficiency in performing.  There are many elements to learn when beginning to participate in recitals.  Helping your students know what to expect and providing them with many recital “practice” opportunities will create comfortable and confident performers.  Below is the last in a series of 3 articles on preparing your students for recitals.

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

(Part 3) Final Preparations

(1) Run Through/Dress Rehearsal. Aside from the actual event, the time just before a recital can be the most exciting for you and your students.  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 dress rehearsals for your students.  This can be done easily with each student during the regular lesson time.  Dress rehearsals provide the opportunity for students to fine-tune aspects of their performance, learn what to expect during the recital, and run through the various elements of a recital in order.  In a dress rehearsal you will have your student run through everything as if it were the real event, such as:

(a) Have your student sit in the performer seating area (either the actual part of your studio where your students will sit, or in the general 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 the stage.  If the student you are working with at the time is not going to be the first performer then verbally go through the list of performers prior to your student.  Then when it is your student’s turn he will walk 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 so that he will bow.  If he has another piece to perform he will sit down again and play the next piece.  Or, if/when he is finished he will exit the stage.

Once you have gone through all of these steps, take the opportunity to discuss 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 end of the dress rehearsal remind your student to be positive, to do his best, to let go of silly mistakes (the audience likely won’t even notice), to keep going no matter what, and to accept compliments at the end of the recital.  And, as an added bonus let your student know how proud you are of his accomplishment and offer positive reinforcement that he can do a good job at the upcoming recital.

If your student seems confused or hesitant during any of the steps in the dress rehearsal be sure to practice with him again!  It is important for your student to be confident and comfortable with what is going to happen at the recital.

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

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

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

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

When preparing students for recitals keep in mind that it is important to provide them with the BEST chance of success at every opportunity.  Help create opportunities for your students to learn early on that sharing music with others can be a highly rewarding and exciting experience (and not something to be feared)!

Piano Discoveries hopes that your studio recitals will be full of joy and success, for both you and your students!

Provide students with a fun and exciting way to practice elementary theory terms.  This crossword puzzle includes 10 early elementary music terms and definitions — tie, whole note, repeat sign, quarter note, half note, bar line, slur, double bar line, measure and staff.