Recitals - should adult students take part?

September 26, 2014 at 04:17 PM · I was wondering what the opinion is on adult beginners performing in recitals? My teacher has a few other adult beginners, but I'm the only one that shows up for recitals with the kids in his studio.

Sure, it's embarrassing, mostly because I'm not as good as the children and the expectation for someone of my advanced age is higher for some reason. I also wonder if it doesn't detract somewhat from their moment or if the kids feel weird about somebody their mom's age up there playing with them.

As a parent, I don't know how I would feel if my child were in that situation. If somebody's mom wanted to play on the Little League, I would wonder what her problem was. It's not exactly the same thing, but music education does feel like it's reserved for children - like a club I have no business trying to be part of.

The thing is, these thoughts go through my head, but it's probably me just being insecure. Everyone seems to be friendly and encouraging. The kids don't seem to care either way.

I don't invite anyone to come see me because I think they wouldn't come, and because I do feel a bit silly. I do the recitals because I need the performance experience. It's the only outlet I have to practice performance. The last one was a huge disaster, however, and I'm seriously reconsidering doing the next one.

My teacher and I have discussed maybe doing something just for the adults sometime, but that hasn't really gelled yet. I still have hopes in that direction. Hopefully it will shake out sometime in the future.

What do you think about adult students performing in studio recitals with the children?

Replies (34)

September 26, 2014 at 04:45 PM · As somebody who was/is also an adult beginner, I think it is fabulous when adults join the kids. Shame on the other adults for not participating.

I'm sure it is mainly your insecurity, compounded by the other adults being absent. The benefits you are getting from playing in front of others is well worth your reservations. Try not to think too hard on what others think of you; focus on what you and your instructor's opinions are. Those two viewpoints far outweigh other people's opinions.

As for the next recital, maybe your teacher is open to playing a duet with you? Or possibly one of her strong students?

September 26, 2014 at 05:16 PM · Sounds like a very good learning tool! I don't see any reason for it to be an issue, other than your own discomforts, which surely will diminish over time.

September 26, 2014 at 05:37 PM · One of the biggest problems for adult learners is lack of performance experience - so take every opportunity offered.

Good luck!

September 26, 2014 at 05:41 PM · I am with ee on this. I get zero opportunity to perform (that is, apart from my orchestra concerts), so I'd say: go for it! Who cares if it's weird anyway.

September 26, 2014 at 05:53 PM · I don't force my adult students to perform on the studio recitals. With the exception of one brave soul, the adult students don't. I wish they would, but pride is always so terribly strong...

The kids don't think the adult student is weird. The parents are quite fine with it too.

Sorry you threw a clunker last time. Try again; what have you got to lose?

Good luck!

September 26, 2014 at 06:50 PM · I had my first ever recital last June at the tender age of 46.

I was one of the last to sit down. And the looks of the kids in the chairs next to mine was pretty funny-- I'm 6'2", and play the viola. So, I had a 6 year old on one side, and 9 year old on the other, and they look up at me as I sit down like "who is THIS giant, balding dude with the humongous violin?"

Anyhow, the recital went off pretty well for me, and I felt that I got a particularly hearty round of applause. And I'm assuming that was more for my bravado of being the sole representative of the post-puberty crowd than it was for my ethereal, and soul searching performance of "Musette" from Suzuki Book 2.

Get up there and DO IT!

You can't let the kids have all the fun!

September 26, 2014 at 07:13 PM · I take part in recitals too. It's an excellent opportunity for me to work on getting over my nerves. Every performance I find I am a tiny bit more relaxed...

I think it's good for kids to see adult beginners! If nothing else might inspire them to practice

September 26, 2014 at 07:48 PM ·

It's funny when you are young you are intimidated by older kids, and when you get 40+ something you are intimidated by children.

September 26, 2014 at 08:03 PM · I think the real caution is what do parents and children think about sharing the spotlight? How would I feel if my kid was in the same program as some more advanced students?

There have been times that I wanted to show off a bit so I would drop suggestions around the organist and hope "someone" would notice. That worked sometimes and nobody is bruised.

There are also sites that allow posting of videos and performance for a few hundred people is a great experience. (they can/do talk back!)

September 27, 2014 at 12:20 AM · For the past two years, my only performances have been student recitals. I hate it because the nerves always get the best of me but I continue to do it to get the performance experience. So far no one has thrown anything at me so I consider it a success :-)

September 27, 2014 at 12:22 AM · Btw I am 3 times older than her next oldest student -- you could say I'm a borderline geezer.

September 27, 2014 at 01:50 AM · Is having your shoulder rest fall off mid recital part of your a schtick?

September 27, 2014 at 01:57 AM · I've done this and it's awkward when you're the only one, but I never felt any of the parents didn't want me to be there. As for kids who play better than me, that will include my daughter pretty soon, so no complaints there. My studio has a separate adult recital that is great fun, it includes piano, cello, violin, and classical guitar, and chamber combinations thereof.

September 27, 2014 at 04:01 AM · only issue is that I am too old to be little-kid cute...and too young to be little-old-lady cute...

And I make my adult kids come to watch me. Payback can be its own reward.

September 27, 2014 at 04:50 AM · I can understand your concern from both angles. I am a 37 year old violin teacher and I am a violin and voice student.

I have 5 adults in my studio and 4 of them play the recitals. It gives them a chance to work on performance skills and overcome nerves, and my younger students don't give it a second thought about them being there. But, my fifth adult started lessons with me because she was inspired watching the other adults play.

I choose to be a student because even after 32 years of training and performance I still fight crazy nerves when soloing. So I take lessons to work on this problem and because I believe that one should never stop learning. I feel uncomfortable when playing at recitals with younger students but I have goals and I am willing to be uncomfortable to accomplish my goals.

As a side note, the parents of my students often tell me that the best part of each recital is watching how much my adults have improved on their skills and confidence from the last recital.

I say go for it! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

September 27, 2014 at 08:10 AM ·

September 27, 2014 at 12:35 PM · "Is having your shoulder rest fall off mid recital part of your a schtick? "

Yes, it helps keep the audience engaged, especially those that haven't had their afternoon coffee. Next recital, I'll have my pants fall down on the final chord. That should get their attention.

September 27, 2014 at 12:59 PM · ...looking forward to seeing that video posted too!...

September 27, 2014 at 02:01 PM · Will do. I'll make sure to capture the moment in hi-def.

September 27, 2014 at 04:58 PM · My mother always says to always put on clean underwear before leaving the house.

I guess she knew what she was talking about after all!

September 27, 2014 at 06:06 PM · I don't wear underwear

September 27, 2014 at 06:40 PM · Liz B

I once knew a young lady who had very impressive musical credentials and she was a teacher in a very exclusive prep school.

I asked her if she had any outstanding musicians/singers but she said it wasn't wise to single them out due to parental backlash.


September 28, 2014 at 03:09 AM · Well Krista, looks like it's unanimous, you're just going to have to keep performing. And I really like the suggestion that you might be inspiring a parent in the audience who, after watching their child learn violin, is wondering if they could do it themselves. You're showing them that they can. Plus you never know, maybe your teacher is trying to get the other adult students to participate and holding you up as an example.

Really though, if you think it's good for you & your development as a player, you should do it. Forget what other think.

September 29, 2014 at 04:23 PM · I love it when my adult students perform in recitals. One woman did her first recital in her 70's. Never too old for new experiences.

I think it reinforces so many good things when the adults perform. I have middle and high school students feel awkward when someone half their age is performing a piece around the same level as they are. When the adults also perform it helps out these students too.

It helps students realize age has nothing to do with your level of playing. It is all about how much work does one put in.

I have not had the problem with boys wanting to quit when they reach middle or high school and I credit much of that to the men who have performed at our recitals over the years.

I just can't express enough how much I love it when my adult students will perform at our recitals.

September 29, 2014 at 05:58 PM · I think it's great when an adult student performs someplace. I also tell friends it takes more cajones doing so than the majority of adults have.

On the flip side and maybe somebody touched on this, but it is so very valuable to make sure your private teacher is supporting you. Once upon a time I went to a friends studio recital. She had 5 or 6 little piggly wigglies and I think two or three adult string players. I sat through it all and at the end almost felt a little sick. Not because I really was sick at the time but because my friend, who would come out to introduce each player before their solo, seemingly made some extremely awkward jokes for each adult. It was border line disrespectful to them. They were not the nicest jokes. I thought the kids had gotten more respect from their teacher than the adults. It was a weird experience. The parents however were ecstatic with the adults, even commending them as well as whispering to the adult performers to "never you mind her childish behaviour."

So to this day, I strongly believe a teacher should not make light of your performance. It's easy to do and it could be done eloquently. But as long as your teacher takes your desires to learn and perform seriously, then there shouldn't be any issues. So, get back on that horse and keep on performing. And if nothing else, just knock a pint size violin or two over and you'll feel better. ;)

September 29, 2014 at 07:15 PM · I just had a conversation with my adult student this morning about this - she performed in our recital this last weekend and played beautifully, by the way.

I had only positive feedback from the parents in the studio - most of them were actually incredibly admiring of her. I reassured her that as they are practicing with their kids at home, they KNOW how hard violin is and they also KNOW how hard it is to be a parent (she has two children ages 4 and 7) and they are IMPRESSED by her courage and performance and creativity.

September 30, 2014 at 12:47 AM · How many children (now) will be sorry later because they observed "Oh, recitals are what kids do. Big people don't play for others." Please play.

If music is such a gift, and it is, right? then there ought to be a lot more joy going around when it's time to share that gift with others. One or a few excited students really make it convincing.

When that excited student is an adult w/ grown up sensibilities, it drives home emphatically that this person thinks music is worth the effort, and that music is just too good to keep to him- or herself, even if not at album recording contract level yet. Even live w/ no studio edits. No net.

If you have a ball playing, your audience will have a ball with you, more than likely.

Three quick memories:

1. the autobiography of a piano teacher I read--she had regular recitals, and some recitals that were by request only--you had to petition to play, and they were wildly popular. No one was made to play in these, you got to play if you worked really hard. Really conveyed the spirit of giving. This teacher herself maintained a repertoire of about 70 pieces to play from memory.

2. the 6-8 year old who excitedly cried, "I can play!" before she had even touched the violin I was showing her. Naive, yes, but we adults forget to remember "I can play THIS today," and be just as excited.

3. the only student I ever saw dissolve in tears and run from the stage in a recital because of the mistakes she made. Age? you guessed--the only adult. What did the other students (children) learn from this? (sigh)

Now, Krista, what will you wish you had done this year? Please play--and tell us what happens.

P.S. Just get up on stage and explain to your audience that with violin playing, 30 is the new three/ 40 is the new four/ 50 is the new five/ whatever decade you find yourself in :) Don't we wish!

September 30, 2014 at 01:08 PM · Wow! I had no idea there would be such a consensus. Since we adults often play in a vacuum, it is easy to get stuck in our own heads and not see what everyone else does. Getting an outside viewpoint is so valuable. Thank you all for sharing your opinions. It truly helps.

September 30, 2014 at 02:55 PM · There is a chamber club here in London where people get up and perform once a month in a concert in an old church. From duos to larger groups. A mixture of amateurs, students and professionals. They just get on and do it. It's a great way to try things out with an appreciative audience.Sometimes just movements, sometimes complete works.

September 30, 2014 at 03:02 PM · I love London. If only it weren't so far away. :-)

September 30, 2014 at 09:35 PM · I live in a teeny town in central Virginia, with no playing opportunities for an adult beginner. My first teacher asked me to play in her students' recital after only three months' worth of lessons, and I got over (most of) my nerves by deciding that it was more about her than me -- maybe some of those parents attending would decide "Hey, I can do that!" and take lessons too.

It wasn't so bad being the only 50+ year old, with the rest of the students being 7 to 17. Most of them were better than I of course, but I guess I was the novelty act!

September 30, 2014 at 10:39 PM · That's how I feel about it too. I'm the novelty act. One or two parents have expressed an interest in lessons because of it, but no one has followed through. And hey, you're not all that far from me. I'm in Central VA too - south of Richmond.

October 1, 2014 at 03:06 AM · An adult student occupies a special place of honor among a group of students of any age. Although an adult may not perform as well as the kids, there are always certain aspects of the performance where the adult maturity and life experience shines forth. Also the adult student serves as a model of lifelong learning, as well as one who has the courage to let the youngsters outshine him/her.

October 1, 2014 at 03:43 AM · Roy, you always nail it. Such grace.

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