Monday Mailbag – Teaching Performance Skills

During your informal performances in group lessons, how do you prepare your students for how to approach the bench and to take a bow afterwards?  Do you have them introduce their piece and/or talk about it?  I really want my students to become more comfortable with performing for their peers as a ladder-step to performing for others.  And I want them to be comfortable taking ownership and pride in their performances.  Thanks!

These are exactly the same goals and objectives that prompted me to begin offering regular group classes. To facilitate it, I designed a practice incentive theme called, Let’s Have a Ball!, where we held musical “balls” throughout the year to develop better performance skills.

For our informal gatherings, I usually have the students introduce themselves and the piece they are playing. For the formal recitals, I use a printed program. The thing that I have found the most effective for instilling proper performance procedures is this set of Performance Signs that illustrate and define each element of a good performance. They cover:

  1. Approach to Piano
  2. Arrival at the Piano
  3. Performance
  4. Completion
  5. Bow
  6. Return to Seat

We use these frequently during our group classes as a reminder of the proper performance procedures. Students who have been with me for several years or more have them down solid, and new students manage to pick it up pretty quickly by observing the others.

It’s important to keep in mind that nothing beats practice! The more students have the opportunity to perform, the more confidence they will develop. I’ve also found that using drama and public speaking games is a great way to reinforce the same skills and help students develop confidence in front of others. There’s a great book called, Theatre Games for Young Performers, that I often refer to for new ideas.

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

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