The rehearsal is over and the countdown has begun! Well, actually I started the countdown a week ago, but that’s beside the point. 🙂 Last night was our Christmas Recital rehearsal (thus my excuse for the lack of posting this week!). It took us about an hour and a half to get through the whole program, but the time seemed to fly by! As I mentioned in a previous post, our theme for the recital this year is Jesus: God of the Galaxy!
I had five students volunteer for narration parts, so they read short introductions for each of the pieces while the performing student takes his or her place. We have a variety of different instruments, as well as a guest artist who will be sharing several vocal selections with us. One of the things I really try to do is make the whole recital an enjoyable program so that everyone who attends has a good time. This is partly due to the fact that I greatly disliked attending recitals growing up – both performing in them and being an audience member. I want this to be a very positive experience for my students and all their family members and friends that come to hear them. That can be a challenge, so here is my list of 7 things that I do to contribute to an enjoyable experience:
1. Take specific requests so that the student can learn and perform a piece of their choice.
2. Try to carefully select pieces that are level-appropriate, but that will make the student sound really good. Highlight their strengths (e.g. if they love to play fast, lively pieces, give them something with lots of scale runs; if they are very expressive, give them a slow, lyrical arrangement, etc. I even have a handful of students who have written their own arrangements or adapted one from a book to their liking).
3. Schedule the recital from the beginning of the year and start talking it up so that everyone is excited about participating.
4. Add some extra perks to the recital. Years ago I started holding a program cover contest where any student could contribute a drawing and then all the students would vote on their favorite. I then incorporate this into the final program design. Students who love to play extra Christmas songs can sign up to play part of the prelude music before the recital. Students who enjoy speaking or acting can sign up to read narration parts. The main idea is to incorporate different elements so that students with different interests and talents will get even more excited about participating.
5. Hold a rehearsal the week prior to the recital. This has become an absolute “must” for me! The students get a chance to test out the piano, perform in the same setting as the recital will be, become more comfortable playing in front of others, and otherwise scare themselves into working their fingers off for the final week leading up to the recital!
6. Hold a reception following the recital. Seriously, for some of my students, it is all about the food. 🙂 Every family brings a plate or two of goodies to share, and after the recital, we head to the fellowship hall for a time of visiting and munching on the treats. Very easy!
7. Change it up every year. I love keeping my students and families always guessing about what is going to happen next. Always be on the lookout for new games, new approaches, new pieces, new ideas to incorporate. If everything is always the same, a certain boredom sets in, but if things are different and unexpected, I think it promotes a sense of curiosity and wanting to be a part of what’s going on. That’s my opinion, anyway!
One new thing that I’m trying this year is hiring a professional photographer to take pictures during the recital. Has anyone else ever done that? Every year I just ask someone to take them with my camera – usually as an afterthought – and they turn out blurry and generally not-so-great. So this year I thought I’d try a new approach. I’m going to have the photographer take pictures throughout the program, a group shot at the end, casual shots during the reception, and family shots around the piano for anyone who would like them. Then each family can opt to purchase a disc with all the pictures. I’m still nailing down a few of the details, but I think it will be SO worth it to pay to have someone do this. And I think most of my families will love the idea, too! Will have to post an update after the fact to let you know how it turns out! Plus, I have someone shooting video as well since I always like to have full video/audio recordings of each of the recitals.
Anyway…that’s a bit of a ramble…can you tell I’m excited?! Hope you all are enjoying the season and are getting your fill of lots of Christmas music these days!