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Why Hold Recitals?

If you don’t hold recitals, you’re missing a rare chance to separate yourself from the many other accomplished teachers out there. My studio ballooned after I held my first recital. So can yours.

No Recitals = Students that Don’t Practice

Here’s the problem I faced: years ago, I used to teach around 5 students from all over NYC. We had weekly lessons for years, but no recitals! Looking back, the lessons often became thin and poorly structured. There was no imperative to practice.

For weeks I’d see mediocre practice habits, if that, followed by lethargy. I’d express my disappointment, then they’d go back to mediocre practicing. The cycle continued, never really moving off that  plateau.

Does your student have a sense of continuity and a sense of why they take piano lessons at all? If this is not clear to them, they’re likely to lose interest. Practicing becomes meaningless.

I took a hard, critical look at myself and realized that my own life was also poorly structured. All the jobs I had were transient, I did not take my lessons seriously, and I was full of ambivalence.

How can I give to my students what I don’t even have myself? I realized that as frightened as kids may be to play at a recital, I was also afraid  to put one on! It was time for a change.

A Recital That Will Transform Your Studio

The key to life is to realize that all decisions are binary, either 0 or 1, regardless of your feelings. So I decided to just do it. I set up a recital at the library, embraced my own fears, and did my best to truly offer something to these students. Something concrete that would crystalize their work. Recitals always teach me a lot, so keep reading.

When you finish reading this piece, you’ll have tools to set up your own recitals, plus a deeper sense of why and how to do this properly, with confidence. You’ll see more students head your way very quickly.

I put on recitals every six months. Afterwards, parents are thrilled. I get new student requests constantly. And best of all, my students are sharper and more determined than ever before. I feel confident that my efforts have meaning, that we’re all building something together.

All this helps me build and improve my own business and life. After all, they’re counting on me!

How to Set Up the Recital

I choose a weekend afternoon or morning. I’ve booked libraries, dance studios, etc. It all depends on what you need. If you are paying for a studio, they will need a deposit plus the booking fees. I would book it 1-2 months in advance, at least.

It will take an hour, at most for 15 students to perform. . Give yourself 30 minutes before and after to wrap up and clean up. If you have a keyboard, bring that plus an amplifier. If the venue has a piano, check to make sure it’s in decent shape and in tune.

I’d always call or check up with the venue a week before the recital, just to confirm it all. Nothing worse than 30 families arriving to an event that has been double booked by mistake!

How to Host A Recital

I sometimes play piano while families arrive, which is fun. Sometimes I stand around and mingle, which is also fun. As people arrive, I offer the kids a chance to sit at the piano for a moment to get used to the keys. If you’re using the Musicolor Method, take the time to tape the keys!

I wait five minutes past the scheduled start time to accommodate families that come late. Then we begin. Once everyone is seated, I start by thanking everyone for coming, then speak for about a minute on why we do the recitals*. I keep this short.

I then call all students to the stage to receive a certificate, and to stand with me on stage. This is important because it gives them a chance to get comfortable on the stage before performing. It also allows us all to get a photo together which is great for marketing. When they all sit back down, we begin the show.

I introduce each student with, “our next student is…” then give them a round of applause as they approach. Once they’re sitting, I ask them what they’re playing (while I’m half facing the audience).

It’s funny — often they’ll quietly answer just me, or look at me with a confused “You KNOW what I’m playing, why are you asking?” face. I then repeat back, slowly to the audience, what they’ve chosen to play.

After our final, headlining student, I urge everyone to give all of the students one last round of applause, then thank them for helping me set up the recital and coming out.

As everyone leaves, we usually chat, take more photos, the kids get to hang and talk — all super fun. Once you’re packed up and everyone has left, head out to grab a beer or an awesome dinner – you deserve it!  

Important Tips to Keep In Mind

  • It’s all about the students and their comfort. If you get nervous, that’s normal, but remember that no one is really focused on you anyway. Simply keep the pace and make it as calming as possible for the students who are often super nervous.
  • Before calling up the next student to perform, wait for the previous student to sit back down in their chair. It gives some weight, pacing, and structure to the whole thing.
  • Keep your introductions short and to the point.
  • Students will be called to the stage to receive formal accolades many times in their lives. Call them up to the stage at the start, have them shake your hand, then hand them the certificate. It teaches them this structure.
  • Incorporate bowing when you call their name to perform (to acknowledge the audience).
  • Ask them, on stage, what they’re performing. They’ll often speak softly, so repeat what they say to the audience.
  • When they finish the piece, have them bow again, then exit. All this creates a sense of structure and helps pace it all.
  • I used to randomize the student order, but now I like to have the beginner students start. That way, they don’t feel too intimidated.

What To Say At The Recital

I’ve created an easy to modify template for your opening speech.  You can download it below and also get a handy recital checklist and see a video of what another teacher, Andrew Ingkavet, says at his opening remarks.

Author: Brett Crudgington

Brett Crudgington owns Brownstone Music Lessons, a piano school in Brooklyn. He believes that to learn music teaches broad life skills – students learn the skill of learning, which they can apply to all they do. The dynamics of each lesson allow the student to learn how to handle frustration and feel safe and free to accept criticism, direction, and create. In short, it’s music for the whole student. He brings a long and varied history to each lesson, having studied jazz, blues, classical piano, performed/composed with the band Brooms, commercial projects, and his forthcoming independent work.
He can be reached at [email protected]

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