Are your recitals mandatory or optional?

Posted by: PianoKitty

Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/13/09 11:42 PM

I usually have a Winter Recital and a Spring Recital (my two "formal" recitals), as well as casual in-house recitals and performances at local venues. I have always made my two formal recitals mandatory (all students in my studio have to perform unless they are out of town that week), and never had a problem with students not wanting to participate.

However, I recently moved to a new area and just started my studio here earlier this year, so I have a lot of beginners. I did not specifically say the Winter Recital was required of all students, and now I am finding that half the students (and parents!) do not want to participate, because the students are "nervous" or "too new" to piano (according to the parents). They are happy to participate in my in-home recitals, but they are scared to death of being in their very first recital, and nothing I say seems to help!

I'm just curious - are your recitals required of all students in your studio, or optional? Do you say in your policies or recital invitations that they are mandatory? What do you do about students who do not want to participate?
Posted by: John v.d.Brook

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/14/09 12:33 AM

PianoKitty, my recitals are not "mandatory." By mandatory, you mean that if you miss a recital, you're dropped from the studio (what else could you do?).

However, I strongly encourage participation, and I explain why.

1 - Piano is a performance art, and you will be constantly peppered with requests to perform, so participating in recitals is a good start for making yourself comfortable in this situation.

2 - Students under pressure to perform will be more serious about their learning and will prepare more thoroughly.

3 - Many formerly shy students found out that performing was actually fun and now wonder why they were so shy about it.

There are other reasons, I'm sure.
Posted by: MrHazelton

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/14/09 01:52 AM

I must admit, I'm a little nervous for my first recital too. My former teacher didn't require them. I was taking rag time piano at the time (he called it popular music but I think ragtime is a better description. He was in his 70’s so his opinion of popular music and mine are not the same. May he RIP). I just started taking classical lesson about 3 months ago and I'm progressing well. We have a recital in June. The thing that bothers me about it is that I'm the only adult student my teacher has. I am going to feel out of place if the recital ends up being a bunch of children and me, a 30 year old man.
Posted by: Roxy

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/14/09 02:11 AM

I have two mandatory recitals a year one at Christmas and one near the end of the school term. I have other competitions, recitals, and events that I inform students of that they can take advantage of during the year but do not require those only if the students are interested do I have them participate in them. By the way my mandatory is simply stated as not an option. But I would never not teach a student who really felt they could not play in one. Usually when put right the students even though nervous agree to play in them adult or other ages. If they truely are ready to fall apart I simply require them to attend. Usually after they see it is not painful and everyone is supportive, they are ready to give it a try the next time around. Recitals give students something to work towards and gives back to those listening to their achievement, enjoyment. It also teaches students to think under pressure and present themselves in a proffessional manner something that will serve them in good stead when they go for their job interviews later on in life.
Posted by: GYABEAUX

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/14/09 04:17 AM

Originally Posted By: MrHazelton
The thing that bothers me about it is that I'm the only adult student my teacher has. I am going to feel out of place if the recital ends up being a bunch of children and me, a 30 year old man.


Yeeeeeah that is seriously bugging me. I didn't even think of that when I asked my teacher to get me into a competition. I don't mind performing in itself but what would the parents say? Considering my local population, if I do badly, I might hear parents encouraging their kids to make sure not to grow up to be like that crazy not lawyer, not doctor, not engineer, not rich housewife lady who fails at bullying kids by entering piano competitions. If I do well, I can only imagine the uproar about fairness, how they didn't know adults could enter, etc.



As for the OP, I can't imagine recitals being mandatory because I certainly can't excuse myself from work for a recital. This is the part of town where even if you had H1N1, you'd still be required to function normally, masks not allowed, no wasting time with hand washing, and you won't be excused from your in-person service job without penalty or retribution, so asking for two hours off for a recital would translate into "let me go play games just because".

Even when I had lessons when I was a kid, I didn't feel comfortable in recitals because I couldn't afford the proper attire. Everyone was in their sparkling new custom made dresses and the best I had was a shirt and pants that were actually new and not hand-me-down torn rags with stains between the legs for once.
Posted by: Basia C.

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/14/09 05:00 AM

Feel I have to add a positive recitial experience. grin

In my first recital I was the only adult, but it actually didn't bother me to much. I made sure there was noone there in the audience who knew me though. blush I said to myself that noone would care or remember about that adult in the recital, and that they will worry more about their own kids then some unknown student. And if they noticced at all, they would just think "how nice, a brave lass, maybe I should start playing again?". I tried to focus on making people enjoy the very limited piano playing I could offer.

It was odd to see most of the kids not beeing especially nervous about playing at all. So I thought, ok just enjoy yourself and learn from whatever goes wrong.

I do admit that all following recitals, including mainly adult beginners, were more fun.
Posted by: 007Pianolady

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/14/09 05:12 AM

Mandatory, no. Highly encouraged, yes. I have a few students that do not play on a recital, mainly adult beginners.
Posted by: Nikolas

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/14/09 05:13 AM

Well, one needs to consider the student's position as well. It does make sense that a student might not want to participate in a recital, and in all honesty, maybe the students are right, if they feel that what they are playing is not really good.

As a student I had done a few recitals at a very young age, with "silly" pieces (I hope you understand what I mean), and then I just stopped doing recitals. I didn't mind the croud, didn't mind the exams, wasn't nervous, but just didn't feel that I liked the pieces that I was FORCED to play.

My first recital after many years was one where I picked my own programm, studied on my own, with a help from a guitarist and also performed my own prelude in D for piano and flute. I was 15 at the time! Then at the age of 18 played the Grieg Sonata in Em, and was very very happy to perform in public, since I was very proud. After that, I had things to play and feel proud and was always very happy to perform.

Thing is this: If the students are capable of understanding this and feel somewhat ashamed from what they are playing (for example, a student around 13-14 might feel weird to go out in public and play... a Beyer piece, no matter how lovely.). Since your students are not avoiding the in-house recitals, it does mean that they are not openly against, but just feel they need the right opportunity to go completely "public".
Posted by: Canonie

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/14/09 06:27 AM

My concerts are very nearly compulsory. I'll do my utmost to convince the "oh I couldn't possibly play in front of people" kids/teens that it is part of playing, and not performing is like not using your left hand. I do this because the lead up to a concert and the buzz afterwards increase the rate of learning so it's an opportunity that I wouldn't want any student to miss out on, however shy/anxious. And because I never got a single performance opportunity through piano lessons when i was a kid frown

I try to make it easy to join in: I have 3 or 4 concerts a year (enough to get used to it), the concerts are casual and intimate and fun rather than a formal recital, even the absolute beginners do their pieces (i really like watching the first efforts of small kids), and I make the parents/audience all join in singing a canon. So you see a kid might be nervous but MUM and DAD have to SING!
ok so there are 2 parents that keep their mouths shut(but I know who you are...). It's more of a party with dinner and piano music than a recital.

The more formal and scary competitions and exams I encourage where useful to the student, but not compulsory. And regarding the silly pieces, or performances that wouldn't get the student much satisfaction; I go out of my way to creatively program to try and avoid this - using theatre, comedy, props, entertaining lyrics, their own composition etc.

I agree with Nikolas that you have to be proud of the piece. I work really hard and finding what kids like, buying lots of beginner repertoire, and the kids have a lot of say in what they'll play. I wrote a lot of beginner pieces that I use over the first few years of learning also that are an attempt at very easy and addictive repertoire. Some of these have been popular at concerts. Oh dear i just blew my own horn blush
Posted by: Basia C.

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/14/09 08:42 AM

Originally Posted By: Nikolas
Thing is this: If the students are capable of understanding this and feel somewhat ashamed from what they are playing (for example, a student around 13-14 might feel weird to go out in public and play... a Beyer piece, no matter how lovely.). Since your students are not avoiding the in-house recitals, it does mean that they are not openly against, but just feel they need the right opportunity to go completely "public".


I completely understand this. However, I feel that if I used that kind of thinking I would never play in public until I felt confident that I was an acomplished pianist and had a terrific program. That would likely stop me from playing for others at all. If teachers try, I believe it's possible to create small in-house recitals with nice, or at least fun or interesting pieces, nevermind how easy some pieces are, where everyone could enjoy themselves and share some music making.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/14/09 08:59 AM

I tell my students they are going to prepare for a recital, I never leave it as an option and have never had to say they *had* to perform. However, I also tell my students that I would never give them something that they couldn't do.

Encourage the parents and students to give it a try, and if it's not ready by the time the recital comes around then we'll decide together at that point. John gives some good points about performing, and yes, the child will be asked to play whenever a family member or friend finds out they take lessons. What will they do if they have not been equipped with the experience of performing? Reassure them that you will help the child prepare for performing and dealing with nervousness by having them "perform" for students, family, friends, whoever will listen as much as possible before the actual recital. That way, they've played the piece in performance settings a few times already and it will be much easier.

Also, you will need to work with them in the coming months to address their issues of anxiety. Many children don't have bad experiences yet to hamper them, so it's just the fear of the unknown. If they understand that most of your other students are in the same boat that may help, too. The goal is to get the student from thinking the recital is all about them to it's all about sharing music.
Posted by: Canonie

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/14/09 09:56 AM

Originally Posted By: Morodiene


Many children don't have bad experiences yet to hamper them, so it's just the fear of the unknown.

The goal is to get the student from thinking the recital is all about them to it's all about sharing music.


Yes! that's what it is about. I love hearing kids play. I hear them every day but never get tired of it (so far).

Getting to know other students seems to be useful too, because so much piano is an alone activity. Helps them to feel part of a little community. So if there was anyone who really couldnt/wouldnt play I'd drag them along just for socialising and food etc.
Posted by: John v.d.Brook

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/14/09 11:07 AM

Originally Posted By: Nikolas
Well, one needs to consider the student's position as well. It does make sense that a student might not want to participate in a recital, and in all honesty, maybe the students are right, if they feel that what they are playing is not really good.

As a student I had done a few recitals at a very young age, with "silly" pieces (I hope you understand what I mean), and then I just stopped doing recitals. I didn't mind the croud, didn't mind the exams, wasn't nervous, but just didn't feel that I liked the pieces that I was FORCED to play.


Yes, of course, we teachers sit around and think up pieces for students to play which will embarrass them. Good grief. Isn't it better to inculcate the attitude that you do your best regardless of the task at hand?

Personally, I always give students options on what to perform from current/recent repertoire, but, that's one more argument for having students maintain repertoire, isn't it?
Posted by: Rank Piano Amateur

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/14/09 12:02 PM

Mandatory recitals were the major reason I stopped taking piano lessons when I was young. I simply could not stand playing in thsm--even if I did well, I would be shaking for hours before and after the recital.
Posted by: Nikolas

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/14/09 12:06 PM

Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Yes, of course, we teachers sit around and think up pieces for students to play which will embarrass them. Good grief. Isn't it better to inculcate the attitude that you do your best regardless of the task at hand?
Depends on the level of the student really and their aesthstics actually! If someone has been raised with listening only piano pieces from the radio/CDs, then maybe, just maybe he's used to top pieces and anything lower will feel bad if played in public like in "I'm preparing and when I'm ready I'll go out, no worries".

It's hardly unreasonable to expect something like that from a student, and by all means I didn't imply for a sec that teachers don't think about that, but that the students might think differently.
Posted by: John v.d.Brook

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/14/09 12:13 PM

Originally Posted By: Rank Piano Amateur
Mandatory recitals were the major reason I stopped taking piano lessons when I was young. I simply could not stand playing in thsm--even if I did well, I would be shaking for hours before and after the recital.


Who made it mandatory? Who enforced it? What were the consequences if you refused to play? How often did you perform? Once a year? No wonder you didn't like them.
Posted by: John v.d.Brook

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/14/09 12:19 PM

Originally Posted By: Nikolas
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Yes, of course, we teachers sit around and think up pieces for students to play which will embarrass them. Good grief. Isn't it better to inculcate the attitude that you do your best regardless of the task at hand?
Depends on the level of the student really and their aesthstics actually! If someone has been raised with listening only piano pieces from the radio/CDs, then maybe, just maybe he's used to top pieces and anything lower will feel bad if played in public like in "I'm preparing and when I'm ready I'll go out, no worries".

It's hardly unreasonable to expect something like that from a student, and by all means I didn't imply for a sec that teachers don't think about that, but that the students might think differently.


I don't expect perfection from my students. They know this. I want them to do their best, of course, but they're students. It depends on the age of the student and their maturity, but I have different approaches I use depending on the situation.

How do you prepare your students for performing? The week before the recital, or do you have them perform all year long, so that the recital is just one more performance opportunity?
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/14/09 12:19 PM

Several years ago, I stopped putting all the students in recitals. Some kids just can't handle the heat. And it becomes an awkward situation for the kid, the parents, and everyone in the room witnessing the struggle at the piano. I'd rather have these kids play the piano for as long as possible without destroying any iota of interest left in them.

But for the kids who said they'll play at the recital, but fail to show up--I won't be so nice.
Posted by: Minniemay

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/14/09 12:26 PM

I require participation in recitals, but for new students, I almost always have them play duets. That way they aren't up there alone.

No one feels comfortable on the stage unless they are well-prepared and go in with the proper attitude. And it's almost always the case that nerves will kick in. This is an opportunity to learn how to work through the stress. They will have to do it in many of other situations. They should learn it early in a supportive atmosphere.
Posted by: Nikolas

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/14/09 12:31 PM

Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
I don't expect perfection from my students. They know this. I want them to do their best, of course, but they're students. It depends on the age of the student and their maturity, but I have different approaches I use depending on the situation.
It's hardly about perfection at all! As you said they are students! It's simply about what they can play and what they want to play! I always wanted to play VERY difficult pieces so since I couldn't I just dodged recitals as best I could! When I got the opportunity to play something I was proud of, I started recitals again.

For a more mature person, most things "bellow" Chopin and Mozart feel "inadequate" for a recital. PERHAPS! No matter how well someone might be able to play a piece from Anna Magadlena, if they feel it's not 'recital material' they simply might refuse to play it. Same goes for other pieces.

Quote:
How do you prepare your students for performing? The week before the recital, or do you have them perform all year long, so that the recital is just one more performance opportunity?
Mid ways. I hate to leave a few pieces all year long. I get bored and they as well. I try to put more pieces and when the time closer I just concetrate on that one/two pieces. On older students and more difficult programs, the preparation time grows slightly longer, but I still try to offer alternatives and more than a 'few' pieces all year long...
Posted by: A Rebours

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/14/09 12:40 PM

Originally Posted By: MrHazelton
The thing that bothers me about it is that I'm the only adult student my teacher has. I am going to feel out of place if the recital ends up being a bunch of children and me, a 30 year old man.


As the only adult student my teacher had 4 years ago (and I was 50+ years old when I started formal piano lessons), my teacher did not require that I participate in the recitals. However, I specifically asked to be included because I believed it would be an important part of my piano education. I did have in the back of my mind, though,whether the parents and relatives of the kids might think it was weird for an "old lady" to be part of the recital. I will say that the first recital was a real challenge for me - heart pounding, forgetting a passage in one of my pieces (yes, I did memorize my pieces),taking a few seconds to regroup and then continue on. In spite of all of this the adults in the audience were very supportive and told me they would never have had the guts to perform.

At our last spring recital after several more recital experiences, I nailed all of my pieces. A parent of my teacher's most advanced student told me that she really saw a huge difference in my playing. Hearing that someone heard a change in the quality of my playing other than my teacher is really encouraging. The growth in confidence in playing the piano in front of an audience allows me to focus on the music and enjoy the process now.

I do have specific goals in mind as to the level of playing that I want to achieve (I want to get to the highest level that I am capable of doing) which I know involves lots of serious study and practice. I am one of those adults who was taught by a parent (my mom had studied singing before she got married) for a couple of years in elementary school but could not continue with formal lessons as a child. We had a piano I did continue to play and sight read music a little bit everyday until I went to college. However, I never developed the proper technique as I went along playing pieces that were beyond my technical level. As an adult I didn't have a piano and college,work, marriage etc. took up most of my time so the thought of getting back to the piano was not in the picture. Then as my career began to slow down I decided that I now had the time to get back to the piano and really learn to play the piano properly. But I digress.

I would say that any adult who wants the experience of performing in a recital even if you are the only adult among the kids is to do what you think is best for your own progress and not worry about what others think.

I will add that my teacher now has another adult student as of last year and we do informal recitals at her studio for just us adults. We do the same repertoire we do at the formal recital but in a relaxed environment. My teacher also had us adults do a duet together at our last formal recital. Prior to this I would do duets with her and she would adjust to what I was doing. It is a different experience playing a duet with someone who is not the teacher. When playing with another adult student who is basically on a similar level with you, it forces you to depend on each other and gets you to focus on tempo, dynamics,getting back on track if you get off somewhere, and responding to what the other pianist is doing. But again, I digress.
Posted by: John v.d.Brook

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/14/09 12:52 PM

I'd be willing to bet that most students reflect their teachers' attitudes. This is often the case. Teachers for whom recitals are just routine events seem not to have "student performance problems" while for teachers that seem to have performance angst, recitals become hurdles, not opportunities.
Posted by: Nikolas

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/14/09 01:05 PM

Definately I agree John!
Posted by: Canonie

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/14/09 08:48 PM

That's a great story A Rebours

Quote:
I will say that the first recital was a real challenge for me - heart pounding, forgetting a passage in one of my pieces (yes, I did memorize my pieces),taking a few seconds to regroup and then continue on. In spite of all of this the adults in the audience were very supportive and told me they would never have had the guts to perform.

At our last spring recital after several more recital experiences, I nailed all of my pieces.


It's interesting to hear that although it can be particularly nerve racking for adult starters, that it is still very worth while. Well done on nailing 'em all.

I teach music to kids via piano, more a beginners specialist, and it's a very deliberate policy to perform as early as possible (it may not even be a piano piece), often, and with relaxed informal concerts as the staple diet. Nikolas and John are right about the attitude of the teacher; I've had a couple of Terrified Transfers who seemed afraid if they made any mistake, even in a lesson. Takes a bit of reprogramming to reverse this.

I'm also a piano student, working to improve my own skills which will (hopefully!) enhance my own teaching, and be able to advance the students further before referral on to a piano specialist. That's why I joined PW - to get inspiration and help from all you wonderful teachers and pianists smile I only have occasional lessons but I hope that I will be allowed to perform where appropriate. As a teacher I'm pretty sure that my performance skills could be better - really want to work on that.

canonie
Posted by: musiclady

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/16/09 07:16 PM

After having a number of problems with students wanting to skip the student concerts, I have made them mandatory. It's usually the weaker students who don't want to do it, though I've had a couple of really fine players who didn't want to. However, this year I have a music bucks deal, that for every performance they do they earn 25 music bucks, which for a couple of students adds up to a lot of performances and pretty big rewards. (approximately 10cent value for every music buck.) Some of the students love the participation certificates I make in MS Publisher, and, depending on the theme of the concert, there are sometimes goodie bags. It's important for the advanced students to inspire the beginners, the beginners to gain confidence performing even really easy pieces, and for the advanced students to see how far they have progressed.

My student concerts are fairly short (45 min-about an hour), though this year may be a bit longer due to some advanced students performing.

Meri
Posted by: abcdefg

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/18/09 04:03 PM

My spring recital is mandatory but there are often conflicts for a few students. They are of course excused. But my first recital wasn't until about my 3rd year of teaching. I grew up in a studio that did not do recitals so I and my students needed to work up some confidence. So, I can see where it might be a bit early for some of your students who don't feel ready.

I also don't require the student to play from memory. Many do but I let them decide when they are ready. I want them to be happy with their playing and feel confident, so if that means playing with music, even if they don't look at it, that is okay.

My studio has become very family oriented. We are in a small community and the students get to know one another and their families. I think everyone enjoys seeing the progress that a student makes from year to year.

I did like the ideas of duets. That would be a great first recital for a new studio. The teacher could play all of the second parts and be right their to help with the bow and any nerves that might appear.
Posted by: Rank Piano Amateur

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/19/09 11:09 PM

To answer John v.d. Brook's question in an earlier post: the recitals were annual affairs, and the music school required them. I suppose it did not occur to me to refuse to participate. I wonder whether the music school would have expelled me if I refused, but I never found out. I also had to play for a panel of people (three, if I recall correctly), who would decide whether I went on to the next level, although I think I only had to play for them once I had reached a certain level. Playing for the panel never really bothered me--I guess it was not public enough, even though from a musical point of view it was a much more significant performance.

Sorry my memories are so vague--it is a long time ago, but I still remember how traumatic the recitals were! I remember at one recital, the girl before me on the program kept forgetting her piece, and ended up weeping hysterically while she was trying to get through it, starting over numerous times. I had to play right after her, and it was a truly terrible experience.

Oh well, since I am not a concert pianist, just an amateur, there is no loss to the world!
Posted by: John v.d.Brook

Re: Are your recitals mandatory or optional? - 10/20/09 12:03 AM

R2A, I have discovered (more appropriately, reinvented the wheel) that only having annual recitals seems to transform them into traumatic events for many students, where as frequent performance opportunities make the whole process more routine. For some students, it never becomes routine, but as a teacher, I ask them to just perform where they are at, and not worry about mistakes. And I don't dissect performances in the group, although we may discuss interpretations later at the next lesson. This whole approach seems to get the kids more fired up about playing for each other and then participating in the community-wide recitals which our teacher's group hosts 3X a year.