Saturday, December 13th, 2014, we had our twelfth Christmas recital, our 8th Christmas recital at Grace Bible Fellowship Church in Portland. It’s amazing to reflect on these past several years, but I remember each event with fondness. This year, more students performed in piano and voice than we have ever had in any one Christmas recital. My friend, April, also joined me (for the fourth time) to perform a piano duet.
The recital prep really began as early as last January. The song list started as soon as the previous recital was finished, but I did make everyone wait to make their official requests until after the New Year. During the summer, students in the upper levels selected their actual performance pieces and books to begin lightly preparing. By the middle of September, I had confirmed & arranged the church location and recital date/time details with the Pastor. All the rest of the students were allowed to select their pieces.
The church in which we have held the recitals is beautiful and laid out perfectly for our needs. During the refreshment time following the recital performances, families mingled, visited, and enjoyed delicious Christmas-themed treats and other goodies. I always look forward to the wonderful opportunity to chat with parents, some I’ve known for years. Parents are pivotal in recitals, supporting their young musician no matter what happens. As a teacher, my word of encouragement can only go so far, but families are vital. Their support throughout the year of their children and the studio goals is what makes progress and these kind of events possible. I love working with these wonderful families!
I arrived with my friend April at 3:00, Hilary joined us around 4:00 after driving from Lincoln City at the coast, and the three of us had a lot of fun setting up lights around the grand piano & arranging beautiful centerpieces in the reception area. My favorite was the reception table with some fun new additions this year. I am SO glad we arrived early to setup. It allowed for an early finish to the preparations, a chance to breathe, and I was able to focus on my students as they arrived. Several wonderful volunteers (my parents & several studio families & friends), came shortly after to help set up – Kaitlyn and several others were involved in hanging the beautiful foam snowflakes – she reaches amazing heights!
Voice students arrived around 5:30 and they had a quick vocal warmup & sound-check with our amazing sound guy, Duane – who also did a fabulous job setting up the tables & chairs in anticipation of the food following the program. Piano students arrived between 5:30 & 6:15, ready to perform at 6:30. Hilary was our amazing photographer this year, and took photos of each student at the piano. I absolutely love giving students and their families the opportunity to capture this fun time as a memory to treasure and share for years. Join the private studio Facebook group for secure access to the photos.
We closed the divider between the sanctuary and the fellowship area before everyone arrived, so Mom & Emma could expertly prepare the back room for the refreshments all the studio families brought to be served after the recital. I greeted students, gave them nametags (mostly just for attendance – since the nametags don’t actually stay on very well) – and chatted with their families while encouraging the young musicians through their nerves as much as possible.
This was the first studio recital that I didn’t actually feel nervous at all giving my speech. During the opening speech, I didn’t even need my list, and remembered everything on it! :) In order to facilitate the group photos, it is vital to organize students by height – and easiest done outside the main auditorium in a long line. I asked all the students to join me in the back reception area, where my Mom helped line everyone up to file into the sanctuary. For the entrance, the iPod was set to play “Angels We Have Heard on High”, an arrangement by ThePianoGuys. The music was majestic, dramatic, and beautiful – perfect for such a fun event. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n543eKIdbUI
They filed into the sanctuary and up on stage beautifully, without practice! I was delighted. Group photos went smoother than ever with parents and grandparents adamantly taking photos from around the auditorium. The one regret I have is that I didn’t have them stand on different steps, so even though many great photos captured those moments, it would have been easier to see all the musicians if I had staggered them not just side by side, but in height using the 3 steps.
At approximately 6:35, everyone returned to their seats with their families, and I got the first vocal duet set up on stage. April took videos (which are very helpful – students can share them with family and friends via this post, and it is helpful for them and I to mark their progress over time). Three of the songs had backing accompaniment tracks complete with instrumentation, while two of the vocal performances sang with live piano accompaniment. :) We had a lot of fun! The original plan had been that I would cue the singers visually from the front row, but I couldn’t figure out how to make just one song play on the playlist and then stop, so I had to run the accompaniment tracks from the back of the room. All the singers adapted beautifully though and sang with ease, without my assistance – and spontaneously without explanation.
Everyone had programs – beautiful red and white snowflake paper to match the color scheme of the decor, and we used a specific system developed through trial and error, to cut down on awkward pauses between student performances. The first row in front of the piano was reserved for myself, Hilary & April, the very next performer, and my many supplies (camera, phone, program, music, speeches, pen, whiteboard, electrical/sound equipment, etc). The second row in front of the piano was reserved for the family members of the current performer and the next performer. When a student approached the piano, the next student on the list came up to the front row and their family came up to the 2nd row to join the performing student’s family (often 2 families were sitting in that row at any given time). When the student left the piano and gave a bow or curtsy, the student in the front row approached the piano, and their family took photos & became more engaged, while the one who just finished performing returned with his/her family to their original seats, and the next one on the program list came to sit in the first row and their family sat in the second row with the currently performing student’s family. Sounds extremely confusing as I read that again, but actually it has always worked quite well! This way, everyone can have the opportunity to capture great photos, and to be emotional and encouraging supporters, close to their children.
Only one student forgot to bring music this time (though fortunately had it memorized nicely – and they even offered to drive home to retrieve it if necessary! – but I heard that student play it on a backroom piano and he was definitely ready to perform), three students were out of dress-code (by accident), and two recital families (and many guests) left before the recital was over (I always ask recital families to stay through to the end). The show went on, and they performed just as wonderfully as everyone else.
It was a beautiful evening! This recital was longer than we have had in the past (except for one recital), but with so many students, that is to be expected. At approximately 75 minutes, it did make it tough for families with young performers or small children – our recital finished just shy of 8:00pm. Most families were able to stay and fellowship during the reception time following performances, but I completely understand that a few couldn’t. A recital performance can be exhausting for anyone, especially some of the youngest musicians. Our youngest performer this year was 5 years old and gave a truly magnificent presentation. One of the studio students, a lovely pianist, wasn’t able to make it to the recital – and I selected a solo to play at the end of the program in her place. It was a frantic week of practicing, but a lot of fun to perform again – last year, I didn’t play a solo – and though I play a lot of duets with students, this was a refreshing adventure, even if rather tough.
Students & guests signed the guestbook, took more photos, enjoyed a wonderful spread of delicious fingerfood items (provided by student families), and visited. Students went home with gifts we exchanged & certificates for their wonderful progress; some even treasured flower bouquets their families gave them – I have always thought that to be a wonderful gift from family to their young performers! I definitely over-purchased reception supplies – we brought home much more than expected. But that’s okay and they’ll be used for parties this Christmas & New Years season. :) All students did a wonderful job, especially with the upset to their regular evening routine.
I expected a lot of guests this year, but didn’t anticipate the time change would have such an impact, or that the number of guests would make the recital so cozy. It was an amazing surprise! Everyone was very accommodating when I asked them to close in any gaps in the rows/pews. We went from standing room, to perfectly situated. In the past, our recitals were at 3 on a Sunday afternoon. Everyone has been wonderful about staying through to the reception and visiting for a while – but this year, Saturday evening (which is all the church had available) was a treasured commodity for many families. I’m honored and excited so many students were able to make it to this recital, and that so many of their guests came to support them – choosing the recital over other possibilities meant a lot to the students too, and they were able to perform for a full room of attendees.
A new addition this year was a book sale. I brought several heavy boxes of books into the recital, hoping to sell as many books as possible at extremely low prices. :) Even though we only sold 8 books, it helped a few families find great gems – new music to play & enjoy. In the weeks following, I held an auction to sell the remaining books, which has been quite successful!
We won’t be using the same studio location or holding big recitals like this again in the future, something for which I am very sad, but there are other options. I just need to find them. :) I’m excited to present & see the recital and performance ideas come to life, and am always interested in hearing your ideas. This was a tremendous ending to a long line of beautiful Christmas recitals. I’m blessed & thankful to be the music teacher to these wonderful students, and am looking forward to many wonderful times ahead with them all.
In Closing: This year, as always, many volunteers helped make this recital better than ever! The entire day was absolutely wonderful. I’m so proud of my students, and they worked REALLY hard in preparation for this performance. It has been really nice, though, to relax following the recital as we have started tackling skills we had to put to the wayside as we prepared for the big day. Everyone is making wonderful progress. I have enjoyed looking through photos of past studio years – and some of the same students starting as long ago as 5 years, performed this year… but now, with more advanced songs/pieces & music selections of more drama, elegance, and skill. It’s a lovely thing to see and hear. :)
Over the years, too, we have had new students join, and the group that has been here the longest is very welcoming, open, and excited to have newcomers participate! With the recent addition of group classes & rehearsals, as well as more introductions as students come in & out of the studio on a weekly basis, I am delighted to see & recognize greater friendships being developed. The support in the recital was evident, and it brought me joy to see students sitting with other students while waiting their turn to perform – and supporting one another when a song/piece was finished. It makes me tremendously happy to see friendships of trust and encouragement grow. Everyone did a wonderful job!
Some highlight performances (though everyone made me super proud) were… a student played piano with his Mom, a student piano quartet of four 2nd graders (they had to stand in order to all “fit” in front of the piano), three vocal solos, a vocal duet, a student felt VERY unwell and played her piece beautifully without letting anyone know until she was done, and a vocal quintet (with beautiful harmonies). Everyone handled their nerves and stage fright with poise & focus, as well as their tiny mistakes with confidence and skill. Performing students were 5 through 16 years old. I enjoyed, as usual, the wonderful opportunity to catch up with families, parents, and students in a more casual way than at lessons. I am so proud of everyone and am very excited for the upcoming year, and everything we’re going to accomplish in 2015! Have a wonderful Christmas.
- The best week of practicing always seems to be the week before the recital, but this year, everyone practiced diligently during the entire process leading up to the performance, several even attending extra rehearsals and lessons. Of course, the days leading up to the recital were packed with extra practicing – I believe the record I heard of was almost 3 hours the day before – way to go, Hannah!… definitely time to rest now that the recital is finished. :)
- Volunteers and/or Hired = Kaitlyn (decorations), April (decorations, video recording), Mom (refreshment area & overview & book sale), Emma (refreshment area), Duane (sound system & setting up tables/chairs), Dad (cleanup & transporting the heavy book boxes), Hilary (decorations, photography). If I missed anyone, I sincerely apologize (and please let me know)! So many wonderful people helped make this entire recital a major success. Thank you, studio families, for providing the fingerfood refreshments everyone enjoyed. You are amazing!
- A glimpse into some “behind-the-scenes” news… 1) Actually, this recital was almost without any hitches or glitches. Everyone did great, and I arrived very prepared. I’m incredibly pleased with the results, and proud of everyone who participated – and my car didn’t break down this year! :)
GUESTBOOK Entries (December 13, 2014) – last names withheld, and I’m sorry if there are typos – I did my best. Let me know if you’d like to add any notes to your musicians. It’s possible I missed some, and I don’t want to do that. ;)
- “Wonderful job as usual Kristin! I hope we will be seeing you again!” – Becky
- “I rock” – Mikey
- “Kiana, you were just fabulous.”
- “Kiana, you rocked it.”
- “Yeahh!!! Kiana was the best.”
- “Great job Bridgette & Mikey! – love Mommy”
- “Hailey, you did amazing! – love Auntie Chrissy & Uncle Tom”
- “Hailey – nice job! Love, Grandma & Papa”
- “I love you Makenna & Kosta – love Kelly & Kristina”
- “Sidra – that was outstanding! You always save your best for the stage! – Dad”
- “All the kids did a wonderful job! Way to go, Hannah!” – Jenny
- “Great job Marissa!”
- “Kiana was the best! – Melissa”
- “Madisen – you rocked it tonight! – Mom & Dad”
- “Wonderful job Kaitlyn – love Mom”
- “Thank you – Diane & Ralph”
- “Awesome job Jaydan – practice a lot.”
- “Merry Christmas! I love you Kristin. – Hailey”
- “Good job Kiana” – Dad
- “Amazing job!”
- “Great job Marissa!” – Mom
- “Marissa, great job!”
- “Great job!”
- “Kristin, thank you for all your hard work and patience with the kids!”
- “Miss Kristin’s Mom & Dad – great job!”
- “Kiana you are special” – Mom
- “Madisen – you have a beautiful voice!”
- “Good job Justin. Keep up the good work.” – Dad & Brittany
- “Great job, Josie. Love Grama & Poppy”
- “Splendid event! – Emma”
- “Great job Jaydan! – Tim & Donna”
Links to PREVIOUS/OLD recital posts… (will see further updates)
Photos courtesy of Hilary Schaffner – http://hilaryschaffnerphotography.wordpress.com/
Videos from the recital = thank you, SO much, April! :)