What a full feeling I have, the day after my students give their recital!
My studio's fall recital yesterday left me feeling very proud of the accomplishments of all my students and their growth over the months and years.
The big reason I put on these semi-annual recitals is to provide a performing opportunity for students. But it does more than that. It brings together a small community of people to mark a milestone in everyone's progress. It allows kids to perform, but it also shows them something about being an audience member and, hopefully, about showing support for their peers. Parents see their own child progress, but they also witness the progress of other students. Parents and students have the chance to chat and get to know one another at the reception afterwards. (I always close by saying, "Tell everyone else something they did really well!")
At the end of each recital, I take the opportunity to call up each child, one-by-one, to acknowledge their violin progress and also whatever ripple effect his or her violin playing is having on his or her community. This last part has nothing to do with me, but when one of my students is playing in the school orchestra, youth orchestra, jazz band, Suzuki group, if they are helping teach other kids, playing at their church, singing in the choir -- I think it's all to be commended.
I have a small studio (about 15 students) and my recitals are likewise small, but over the years I feel I've figured out a few things about putting them together. Here is a checklist of things to do, to prepare for a recital. Please feel free to add your own ideas in the comments!
1. Hire a good accompanist. This is the first call I make, even before setting the date. I see if one of my preferred accompanists is available. A good accompanist can roll with whatever the students throw his or her way. A good pianist is not always a good accompanist, so be sure that you know your pianist for his or her collaborative abilities.
2. Secure the venue and set the date. The sooner you set the date, the sooner you can commit to every aspect of the recital. Students will have their other important commitments (soccer, tennis, school musical, etc.) and you may want to check a few of those. (If you set the recital on the day of their graduation ceremony, or their required school concert, or the youth symphony concert, that's a big conflict.) But if you can tell parents several months in advance to reserve the time and date, there is a much larger possibility that you will get high participation and that just maybe, this is the one soccer practice they miss because they have an important and mandatory violin recital!
About the venue, pick something that suits the size of your studio. The little chapel at my own church is just beautiful, so I hold my recitals there. I feel lucky, as it took me a while to find such an ideal setting. If you have a hard time finding a place for the recital, you can ask your students' parents if they have connections; I've had some really lovely recitals at people's homes as well. Keep in mind, the venue should have a decent piano that is in tune. This can be a complete deal-breaker! So make sure you are familiar with the piano (bring your tuner, see where the "A" is at) before you sign a contract. You will probably have to pay to use a public or church facility.
3. Pick what your students will play. My general rule is: it should be completely memorized a month in advance of the recital day. We make the final choice of each student's repertoire about a month in advance. They may be working on other, more advanced pieces, but the recital piece needs to feel comfortable and extremely practiced and familiar.
4. Practice performing. In the weeks leading up to the performance, we practice performing during the lesson, and I encourage them to perform for others at home. I have them walk in, bow, play the whole piece, no stops, bow again. If I played the piano, I'd accompany them on piano. But I don't! So I accompany them on violin, with much thanks to arrangers Martha Yasuda and also Marianne Rygner for making violin duet parts of the accompaniment to the Suzuki tunes as well as many other pieces. (Thanks to Martha, my students have recently been able to put Meditation from Thais with piano with the greatest of ease, yay!)
5. Rehearsal. I have everyone come to the venue where the recital will take place and play with the pianist. I try to schedule the rehearsal at least a week in advance for the "Wow, I had no idea but I really need to work on this!" revelation that inevitably occurs! Sometimes it's hard to schedule this in the venue, but I really aim for that, because I think it helps performers to hear themselves in that space, imagine themselves playing in that space, etc.
6. Reception. Are you going to have a reception? I've found it easier to do the reception as a potluck. I have the families sign up to bring something in the 2-3 weeks before -- using a sign-up ensures that they can see what others are bringing and we don't wind up with 10 veggie trays, or conversely, 10 plates of cookies! I provide the drinks, cups, plates, tablecloth, etc. Be sure to bring several trash bags, if you plan a reception, and ask kids and parents to help you clean up afterwards so you can leave the venue in good shape.
7. Program: The week before the recital, I type up and print the program. I try to make it look nice! This time I drew the picture you see at the top of this article. If you can, print the program several days before the recital, so you don't wind up in a mad dash on the day-of.
8. Awards. Not necessary, but I make everyone a certificate that acknowledges the piece they have just performed. I've known teachers to give out practice awards, for most hours practiced, or awards for those who practiced 100 days in a row. I give the certificates at the end of the performance and use the occasion to acknowledge students both for their violin accomplishments and also for what they have been doing in their violin lives -- if they play in youth orchestra, school orchestra, band, church, teaching, giving performances at nursing homes, etc. etc.. This allows other students and teachers to think about what possibilities are out there for making the violin become a part of their lives. Because ultimately, that's what this is all about: teaching them to play the violin so that they are free to go whatever direction they wish with it and use it to enhance their own lives and the lives of others.
P.S. At right is my newest student, Sebastian, 4, whose certificate was for "First Recital"!Tweet
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