Performance for Students

Here’s another excerpt from the notes of Janna’s excellent overview of teaching for new teachers. This one seemed especially fitting since I just returned from a Clavinova Festival where 13 of my students are performing this weekend.

I confess…though I love to play, I do not enjoy performing and I’m not good at it. I’ve had plenty more bad experiences performing than good ones and I’m often at a loss as to how to help my students become good performers. I appreciate Janna’s advice below and would love to know what some of you other teachers do to help your students become good performers, or even any ways you have found to improve your own performing skills (feel free to leave a comment below!). And another question…how do you help a student pick up the pieces, so to speak, from a bad performance and convince them that they should still keep working on developing this skill? (I think I may have to do some of that with a student next week…) Any advice would be most appreciated!

By Janna Williamson, NCTM
Wheaton Yamaha Music School

Annual or Biannual Formal Studio Recital
Reasons you should do this:
-parents, grandparents, friends get to come for the big event to hear their star perform
-one big pinnacle of the year that can be very exciting
Difficulties to overcome:
-scheduling is a nightmare, especially if you want to do it in December or June (prime times)
-it takes a lot of work on the teacher’s part with organizing, planning repertoire, providing a
punch and cookie reception, making sure all students are adequately prepared
-some students deal with performance anxiety at this level of performance

Formal Examinations through Teacher Organizations
Reasons you should do this:
-different groups have different syllabi which are very useful to inexperienced teachers
-having your students evaluated by an unbiased judge is invaluable to you and them
-good organizations include: state MTA’s [Natalie’s note: see right sidebar for links to each state] (MTNA), National Federation of Music Clubs , National Guild of Piano Teachers, other local organizations
Difficulties to overcome:
-following the various syllabi can often be confusing and take a lot of work, especially during
the first years that you enter students in each event
-the quality of judging can vary based on type of event and location
-students should only be entered in these events at an appropriate level and when they are
well-prepared by the teacher

Studio Performance Classes or Group Classes

Reasons you should do this:
-it’s a lot of fun! Students love getting to know one another and connect with peers
-kids learn a lot from each other and can teach each other things they might not learn from a teacher figure
-these informal (no parents allowed) times are great for preparing for bigger performances
-if you decide to include non-performance things such as theory or music history, you make more use of your time by teaching the same material to many at one time
Difficulties to overcome:
-scheduling is difficult, especially if you decide to organize several groups according to level

Thoughts on Preparing Students for Performance
-It takes a long time to be prepared, and the bigger or more important the event, the more time.
-Students must have regular performance to feel comfortable with it. Once or twice per year is not enough. Requiring students to perform a lot is really in their best interest.
-Learn strategies for dealing with performance anxiety in students. These must be different for students of different ages. Keep in mind that the best strategy for avoiding anxiety is simply to be extremely well-prepared!
-Piano students must learn to deal with strange pianos.
-It will always sound better at home. I’ve heard that line so many times, I’m making T-shirts!
-Encourage regular “home” performance for your students. Parents, grandparents, people at family holiday get-togethers, and friends from school all make great impromptu audiences.

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