Make recitals happen! If you are a teacher, organizing a recital experience for your students takes time and planning – and often can be really easy just to not bother with. But the benefits of a well-run recital to both the individual students and the studio as a whole are undeniable. If you are a student, or parent of a student, please make these special opportunities for growth a priority in the family calendar. The cornerstones of the music education program you have generously invested in for your child, recitals are not just another “activity” like soccer games and birthday parties vying for time on a busy schedule. They need to be awarded top priority scheduling status.
While preparing a student for a recital involves a whole set of tasks revolving around teaching the techniques, rhythms, notes and musicality of each piece, I offer below ten thoughts I haven’t seen much written about that relate to recital planning in general:
1. How many recitals per year? Some studio teachers plan one recital per year, while many plan two recitals. Other teachers may also keep an eye out for other student group and solo performance opportunities, such as at community events or senior centers. The exact number is less important than that all performances are properly planned and prepared in advance.
2. Don’t have access to a proper recital hall? Churches are a great option, an often not too expensive to procure. Music store also sometimes have a recital room. Do you or any of your students have a house large enough? Home recitals are lovely!
3. How many students per recital? My favorite number is around 15 students, but the more important factor, to me, is to keep each recital under an hour in length.
4. Accompaniment: While one can present a string studio recital without an accompanist, I feel it is an awesome, high-priority component. If your students are playing pieces beyond your ability to accompany them yourself, consider hiring an accompanist. Some teachers charge a recital fee to cover the expense for the accompanist, and possibly the venue. Another option is to play a duet accompaniment to as many pieces as possible. Martha Yasuda, for example, has published duet accompaniments to the entire Suzuki violin repertoire (http://yasudamusic.com ).
5. Don’t have enough students for a recital? No problem! Invite other local teachers to either bring students or to invite your students onto their recitals. Networking is gold.
6. The After-Party: in my own current teaching situation at a local university, the venue we use for a Suzuki Group Concerts allows for a little reception afterwards. We simply ask parents to bring a few treats to share if they can, and it as great time for parents and students to celebrate and bond with each other. Because our solo recital venue has a strict no-food policy, we celebrate by inviting all the soloists up on the stage at the end of each program for one more round of applause and a group photo op.
7. Seating Advice to First Time Recitalists: sit in or near the front row, for the best view and shortest walk to the stage!
8. Piece Selection: In my studio, students commit to the piece they are preparing for each recital at least six weeks in advance. Advanced students may even choose their pieces six months in advance. Kids lead busy lives and I find we need to plan ahead to get everything thoroughly prepared.
9. Dress Code? I tell my students “Clean & Decent,” but do point out that the outfit needs allow for the comfortable playing of their instrument. So, for violinist, I warn the girls about the challenges some jewelry, neck-lines, buttons, high-heels and hair-styles might present, and I advise the boys to only play in a suit and tie if they have tried it at home first.
10. Stage Presence: The father of one of former students, who is now a music major at Oberlin College, once told me that the thing he appreciated me teaching his son the most was teaching him how to take a bow on stage. To open each of my recitals, I make the same announcement. After the usual welcome and request to silence cell phones, I remind everyone that we are a friendly crowd who loves to clap! I state our rule that not only will everyone clap every performer onto and off the stage, but that we will keep clapping until the performer acknowledges the applause with a proper bow. This little piece of recital etiquette is worth the few minutes it takes in lesson to prepare the student how to walk and bow while carrying a violin, bow and, possibly, sheet music. We also practice how we will re-check their tuning once on stage, how to stand in the correct orientation to the audience, and exactly how they are going to cue or start their piece. All this practice about what happens immediate before a student plays is like taking out a Positive Recital Experience insurance policy.