Recitals – organizing group rehearsals

With only 4 weeks before my studio’s recital, students are frantically practicing the pieces they’ve been so diligently working on since school started.

Today, I am going to address the idea of recital rehearsals.

One of the scariest things I faced as a young musician was showing up for a recital without knowing exactly what I would be doing or what my teacher had planned for the event.  A few years ago, I decided, with the encouragement of my students and their parents, to host rehearsals in my home studio to address the issues before us.

About two weeks before the actual performance, only the students gather in my home studio in groups of 4-10 by age to “rehearse” the recital just as it will happen on the real day.  This time, however, we take pictures (posed & candid), do a craft (for the younger students), talk about stage fright and recital etiquette, and video-tape their performances twice.  Why twice?  The first time, the students who are not performing at the moment will be very, very, very quiet… as well as polite, clapping at the end, and encouraging in every way.  The second time, they will still be encouraging and clap at the end, but they will be loud and talkative.

Often, students are told to pretend no one is there… or that those there are invisible or some such thing.  I find it important, however, to remind my students that those attending their recital are there to support them.  If they make a mistake or lose their place, no one is going to criticize them.  They need to be prepared if someone sneezes or a baby cries… and the best way is to be completely aware of their surroundings and who is in the room.  By playing for the enjoyment of their audience rather than using a great deal of energy trying to block that audience out or mind awareness, the student has the opportunity to enjoy performing and will overall have an amazing outcome – playing their best not for me, but because they love what they do.

We go over a few steps in the rehearsal, which will be duplicated in the actual recital.  I have broken it down by the minute…

  • 8-10 minutes = Introductions & icebreaker game, favorite song to play, another hobby or interest
  • 10 minutes = Order of Recital (just talking about it)
    When the student before them goes up to play (students sit with their parents), you will come up to the front row where I (the teacher) will be.  When the student playing is done, you will go up to play and the student after you will come sit up with me.  Everything (all the moving) is done during the applause… and has worked great!
    Approach w/ music
    Enter piano bench on left
    Sit @ piano, set up music
    Hands in lap 5 seconds, deep breath
    When finished playing, hands in lap 5 seconds
    Stand up and leave on left of the piano bench (don’t forget to take your music with you – I don’t require my students to memorize their music)
    Bow or curtsy, then sit down.  Good job! ?
  • For 20-30 minutes = Recital Practice (piece(s) & order) = 3-4 minutes each (video-taping)
  • 10 minutes = Explanation of Recital and what it will be like…
    Dress Code
    Be 10 minutes early to recital
    After the recital, mingle & meet the other guests
    Etiquette – what does it mean?
    Anxiety – Be ready for everything and anything.  Try not to block anything out.  If someone sneezes or a baby cries, don’t be surprised.  Expect it.
  • 20 minutes = Take pictures of students performing & do craft
    Decorate cookies (especially at Christmas time) when finished with previous activity
    As parents are coming = Review game – covering some musical concepts they are learning in private lessons

What is my greatest joy as a teacher?  Students come for lessons and only see me, their teacher, and any students before or after them.  When they are able to spend an hour together as a group with others their own age and approximate playing level, they find just as much joy in their playing as I find in teaching.  Recitals can be scary experiences, but with friends, anything is possible.  The support my students have for one another is truly amazing and shows me that the hours of preparation going into each recital is worth the time and effort… if only to know they are well-prepared, have made great friends, and find purpose and joy in sharing the musical skills they have learned and worked diligently at for so long.  Recital-time is truly one of my favorite seasons of the year.  :)

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