Recital Experiences for Adult Students

December 19, 2014 at 04:47 AM · I'm looking for opinions from the adult students out there. Would you be more inclined to perform in a recital if the other performers were also only adult students? Do you think it would affect your stress levels, either positively or negatively? Have you played on recitals where other performers were children, and how do you like that as a recital experience?

I teach at a community arts school where there are many adult students, and I know that they sometimes experience difficulty in performing on the recitals alongside the little ones. Would it be useful to create an "Adults Only" recital for them?


December 19, 2014 at 07:55 AM · Hi Claire,

I recently had my first experience with a mixed recital, and I would definitely prefer Adult Only. This recital was on a Saturday afternoon. The kiddies were first on the program. Many parents, after their kid had played, would pack up their families and leave on the spot. I found it unbelievably rude! My kids, now grown, could tell you I'd definitely have told them that being each other's audience is a reciprocal thing. Of course I understand that there must have been other pressing obligations and activities, but the result was that by the end of the recital (where the few adults were scheduled) the audience had been halved. I suspect this would never happen in an Adults Only recital. So yeah. Other than that, I don't think it would make a lot of difference for my nerves of performance. I was amazed to find that I actually enjoy playing my violin in front of people!


December 19, 2014 at 12:01 PM ·

December 19, 2014 at 01:41 PM · I like the idea of adults only recitals, particularly if you have a few rehearsals in advance for recitalists to work together, some listening as others are playing. At least when the real recital happens, there will be familiar and friendly faces in the crowd.

Also, in an adult recital, I don't see why you have to wait until after the recital for that sip (glass, bottle, or box) of wine to calm the nerves.

Great thought!

December 19, 2014 at 01:51 PM · I like the mix. I am working on my nerves...and I'm actually more nervous when I'm performing with the 5 year olds and their parents are listening to me. So it's good to be out of my comfort zone.

I also think it's good to have the kids (and their parents) see adult learners. I get irritated when everyone thinks lessons are only appropriate for children.

December 19, 2014 at 02:25 PM · I have had the opportunity to participate in both an adult-only recital (mixed studios), and several recitals with the children. There are benefits to both, but I much preferred the adult-only experience.

At the adult-only recital, I felt more comfortable. Every person there was my age or older, and was struggling with the same things (raising a family, running a household, managing a career), and still chose to make time to learn an instrument. We had a lot in common, and it was fun networking. The organizers had to shoo us out after the reception because we were enjoying spending time with other adult starters so much.

At the children's recitals I feel a bit ridiculous sitting up in the front row with the children and being outplayed by nine year olds. When an adult performs, there is more of an expectation that we will have a certain sound, and when we don't it's disappointing for us. No one else says anything, but it's hard not to feel judged and found wanting. There's also little sense of community with the kids in the studio. They are getting used to me showing up to things now, but since I'm older than most of their parents, there's no one I can really connect with. It makes it harder to justify participating, which is why I think the other adults don't take part.

I think that if you were to do an adult-only recital, it would be well received by your adult students.

December 19, 2014 at 02:31 PM · As far as people leaving after their kid has played, there needs to be a studio-wide and clearly communicated expectation that you stay to the bitter end unless you've explained your special circumstances in advance to the teacher-in-charge. The studio where I have lessons is a big one with guitar, cello, piano, violin, viola, and voice (multiple teachers obviously) and there is a big concert at the end of each semester with both orchestras performing (junior and senior), etc. And it's just hard to keep everyone there to the end. The way they ensure the biggest audience is to make the violin group last because that one has the most kids involved.

Coming back to Claire's question, I played in a mixed recital with kids before, and while I don't really mind, it does feel kind of weird. One thing is that for the kids recitals often the first row of chairs is set very close -- kids don't mind, but I need my personal space. I agree it's perhaps good for the kids to see adults enjoying music at an amateur level, but I think if there is an example to be set, then the parents themselves can set accomplish that by taking up the violin (or whatever) themselves and practicing every day. With apologies to Charles Barkley, "I'm not a role model, and just because I [play the violin] doesn't mean I should raise your kids."

I know there are adult students who are already super nervous and made even more so if they are playing along with 8-year-olds who are playing the same piece, only much better. That's really not a trivial problem.

The other advantage to an adults-only recital is that it can be a much more thoroughly grown-up affair. In the student where I have lessons, we do an adult recital every semester. Each performer explains a little about where they are in their studies and they introduce their pieces. Kids aren't excluded from attending, but squirming/whining and the endless folding and rustling of paper programs is not tolerated. Another advantage of the adult recital is that it's usually smaller so you can have it in someone's home who has a piano, and then you can have a nice reception afterward with wine, hors d'oeuvres, and conversation with other sentient beings. You can also relax the "members only" requirement and invite spouses who might play an instrument but aren't taking lessons to contribute (often these people are quite gifted). There is a gentleman in our group who composes music and we often play a string trio of something he's written. All of that is just so much more rich and rewarding with the sharing of much more mutual respect and warmth than you can ever have in the comparatively mechanical procedure of the usual children's mixed student recital, where the goal tends to be more focused on getting through the program, getting your iPad video of your kid for Facebook, and leaving.

Krista responded while I was writing my thesis here, and I agree with her completely.

December 19, 2014 at 03:19 PM · Let's be realistic. A young child squeaking through their recital piece is cute and charming. A grown adult, really not as cute. As an adult rank beginner, when my teacher asked me to participate in her studio recital, I declined. No amount of money would get me to squeak through my piece against those adorable tykes.

I think deep in my heart I sort of believe that as an adult, I should still play better than most of those kids. And if I can't, I have no business putting myself out there. I know it's not logical and reasonable to think that way, but I admit I kind of do anyway. I'm willing to bet I'm not the only adult who has this same issue, even if they don't articulate it as such.

I probably would have been far more willing had it been an adults only recital. We'd all be more of the same peer group, no pressure to be any kind of a role model; a much more even playing field ... so to speak. I wouldn't be a grown man making a fool of himself out there in front of all these other grown adults only there to watch their cute little kids.

The reader's digest version of the above, I suspect most adults are going to feel ridiculous playing next to little kids. The kids are inherently expected to play at the level they do. The subconscious expectation in both the player and the audience, is that the adult should play much better.

December 19, 2014 at 03:27 PM · Definitely adult only. Better snacks.

December 19, 2014 at 03:44 PM · If you have enough people to do an adult-only recital (a group of 10 or more), definitely adult-only.

I often feel like I'd really like more opportunities to perform casually. My teacher has a studio recital each year, but I'd really like to be playing in front of people much more often, even when it's not polished.

Actually, on reflection, I think I miss the group classes of my Suzuki childhood -- in the program I grew up in, every student had one private and one group lesson each week. In the group lessons, students played for each other in more of a master-class type of setting, in addition to playing together. I never got over my fear of performing, but I was at least acclimatized to it.

December 19, 2014 at 03:44 PM · @Steven Albert

I utilize those kinds of feelings as an incentive to work harder and, indeed, play better ;-)

December 19, 2014 at 04:37 PM · @Zina,

As do I. However, the reality is that no matter how hard I work and how much I practice, and how good my teacher is, it is still going to be a number of years before I will be good enough for public exhibition. I have mastered a number of instruments throughout my life. I can say without reservation, violin (and by extension any of the bowed strings) is the the hardest thing I've ever attempted, just to perform at a basic level. Let's face it, the bow is weird, unnatural and an inordinately difficult tool to control, especially at the beginning. Do I need to say how problematic it is playing in tune without keys or frets?

After what amounts to around 2.5 years of lessons, I still can't confidently say I can get through an entire piece reasonably well without my intonation and bow going awry before the final double bar. On all the other instruments I've played, I could perform the simpler pieces rather nicely after a relatively short time of study.

All this trouble and I was a seriously well trained musician going into it. I can't begin imagine how difficult this must be for an adult coming to it with no musical training whatsoever. My hat's off to those ladies and gentlemen. You deserve a gold medal swathed in platinum for your heroic achievements.

December 19, 2014 at 05:06 PM · @Steven

I hear you. After over three years of lessons I am still not in the least satisfied with my intonation and basic bow control. They are getting better though (so my teacher says). I've found that I can be reasonably happy with my achievement for a short while, then my ears seem to open up further and as far as satisfaction goes I'm back to square one.

I suspect this will continue as long as I live, so for me there is no projected time in the future where I expect to be Salonfähig (I don't know the English word, which would be something like: fit to be seen, or rather, in this case, heard, in public). That's why I decided there is no time like the present to start getting used to playing my violin in public. In fact, right now it's time to run off to my second recital. which is going to last for approximately 7 minutes tonight, with another adult starter on the violin and four adult starters on the 'cello, one of whom has only been playing for six months. I'm in charge of the timing which adds an extra burden of difficulty, but hey, we are having a blast!

December 19, 2014 at 05:26 PM · "Salonfähig"

That's what I love about German. It has just the right word for everything.

"but hey, we are having a blast!"

And therein lies the key to the whole thing!

December 19, 2014 at 06:11 PM · If the concern is reduced audience size after some of the kids leave with their families. Imagine how small the audience would be if it were ONLY the people who came with the adults in an adult only recital?

I'm an adult beginner, and participate in the group recitals. You gotta take your lumps just like everybody else!


December 19, 2014 at 09:26 PM · @Seraphim

Reduced audience size is not my concern, common courtesy is.

In tonight's adult only recital (2 violinists and 6 cellists) we had a great turnout of 20 in the audience. Nobody walked out during the recital, which lasted all of 12 minutes ;-).

December 19, 2014 at 09:54 PM · I've been playing about 3 years and just started formal lessons 4 months ago ( I'm 53 ). We just had a recital earlier this week and I was the only adult to play. My teacher does not require her adults to participate, but I think it is always a great experience to get out there to play. Yes...some of the kids are better players than me, but it actually gives me more incentive to practice. All the participants and their parents stayed throughout the whole recital since the teacher had us play multiple pieces throughout the evening. It wasn't " play my 2 songs and get out of here "

December 19, 2014 at 10:39 PM · I have never participated in an "adults" only recital. I take lessons from a teacher with a small studio in which I am the only adult. He allows me to participate in his studio recital every year, and I take advantage of that - no matter how nerve-wracking it can be, I feel it makes me work really hard. I don't feel it's any more or less nerve-wracking because there are kids performing also. In fact, I really enjoy hearing the kids perform, and I learn something every time I watch them.

In addition to the recital, though, the studio also has a few other events each year (reading parties, holiday parties) which are *just* for the kids, and so I am excluded. I personally wouldn't feel odd attending these events (we are all students, regardless of age), but this is just the way it is. In those cases, I do wish there were "adult" versions, because they sound like a lot of fun.

December 20, 2014 at 03:36 AM · For me, Krista's post says it all.

I think adult-only recitals is an absolutely wonderful idea if you have enough students to sustain it….or even better, coordinate with other teachers… because it facilitates networking between the adult students.

Look at the way adult beginners have sought each other out on the web and formed online networks and communities, here included. How great would it be if folks did this in person? People could hear their fellow adult students play, support each other, compare notes, commiserate and celebrate together. They could also learn about what other musical activities their fellow adult students are doing, like some kind of group music whether it be chamber music, orchestra or jam sessions, and they'd perhaps realize that they could be doing this too and make some connections to make it happen.

December 20, 2014 at 02:53 PM · Starting violin at age 42 , I've been an adult student longer than I care to admit. First off adults only recitals are not common. Regardless, i have no problem participating with the kids. It would definitely be a bigger audience, and most of the adults are impressed with someone who starts up a new instrument relatively late in life. I've been fortunate that my daughter took piano lessons, and I had the opportunity to do duets with her a couple of times in recitals. My opinion is the good outweighs the few bad people involved

December 20, 2014 at 05:52 PM · My teacher has done both in the past. For various reasons, she no longer does them in the city so I have to create my own opportunities for performance these days. The adults-only evenings were more like workshops, with small audience and 3-4 performers, wine and cheese after, etc. Great experience and a lot of fun. I also hugely enjoyed the recitals with the kids. In this case the adults, for the most part, were more advanced than the kids, so am not sure how I would feel if I were a beginner. At any rate, the parents of the kids were extremely gracious. In terms of nervousness, both were about the same, a performance is a performance no matter what, although the slightly more formal/bigger audience setting of the kids/adults events were perhaps a bit more nerve-wracking. I think it is important to get as much performing experience as you can, and good for the adults in the audience to see other adults who make time for music.

December 20, 2014 at 11:15 PM · I am a nervous person who rarely performs in public or takes the chance to. Speaking for myself, I don't mind if there are children, or if it's adults only - the only thing I wouldn't like is if all the other performers were way more advanced than me. Selfish of me, I know, but it would make me twice as nervous. If one or two are the same level, that would be more companionable. The workshop with nibbles idea sounds fab.

But I do know of some adult learners who seem not to like the fact that their teaching materials are child-oriented and their fellow pupils children. I am sure that for them an adult-only concert would be a cool experience;

I'd quite like to try both - if I could get up the confidence. :-)

December 21, 2014 at 04:37 PM · I'm a nervous wreck playing in front of my dog. One day I hope to be able to play in front of humans without the need for a diaper. :-)

December 21, 2014 at 11:44 PM · In our adults-only recitals, we've NEVER had anyone leave early after they played, and the subject, to my knowledge, has never been brought up. However, there is always a reception afterward, and "bring a dish to pass" is a pretty strong hint that you're expected to stay.

December 22, 2014 at 03:27 PM · Thanks all, for your great responses!

@Philip, are you an adult learner, or are you a teacher who has worked with adult students? My intent is not to segregate, but to create a positive learning and performance environment where my students can build confidence and performance skills. There are many ways to shape teaching studios, performances, and learning environments. Sometimes it is great to have the whole studio together. Other times, it is best to divide them up into age groups where they feel they have more in common.

I'm fortunate to live in the DC area and have discovered an association that is primarily for adult learners that I was able to recommend to my adult student.

It's a challenging situation, because teachers cannot control who seeks out lessons from them. I have students from ages 4 - 18, and then one adult student. In theory, the adult student is required to follow the same policies as the rest of the students. In practice, she faces different challenges in her life and has a slower rate of learning repertoire because she has less time to practice. She's certainly one of my most capable students, but the challenges of home renovation, raising children, and participating in other activities leave her with little room to practice. She has many insecurities about her playing, and that brought about my question - would it be better if I was able to provide her with a safer performance situation surrounded by peers similar in age and background?

She'll continue to perform in the twice-yearly all-studio recitals, of course, but I'm hoping that participation in the adult amateur association will help her form a community and gain some more confidence!

December 22, 2014 at 07:03 PM · I'm finding sometimes even the "later starters" feel a bit uncomfortable playing with the kids who started at age 3; they almost have some of the same issues as adults. Which is funny to me, as I was nearly nine when I started and never had to deal with that. Some people start very young these days, but that's no reason NOT to start, just because you are older. I do think that a teacher can help cultivate a supportive environment within the studio and definitely can demand that people stay as audience members. I feel like that's as much a part of the lesson as is playing: being a supportive and encouraging audience!

December 22, 2014 at 11:56 PM · Hi Claire,

What is the name of the adult amateur association? Is it ACMP?

December 23, 2014 at 01:48 AM · Hi Smiley,

It is the Adult Music Student Forum, linked below:

Adult Music Student Forum

December 23, 2014 at 02:04 AM · Heh, I had read Claire's post on my phone earlier and had been meaning to ask the exact same question when I got back to the computer, but Smiley beat me to it. :-)

I'd looked at the ASMF before, but it appeared to be extremely piano-centric despite ostensibly being open to other instruments. How violinist-friendly is it?

December 27, 2014 at 07:07 PM · I'm not an adult learner, just a chauffeur, manager, interpreter and long time observer. The idea of adult only recitals, formal or informal seems like a good idea and something worth exploring and promoting.

Last year at music camp I was talking to a mother and she told me of making a piano keyboard out of wood to practice with. She was in rural Korea and that was all they could afford. She desperately wanted to learn music, now she was providing her daughter with piano and viola lessons.

If there was more promotion of adult learners some of the parents who are pushing their indifferent kids into music might do it themselves, with better results.

December 31, 2014 at 08:10 AM · Hi Smiley,

what's the problem about needing diapers when playing in front of the dog?

it's when the dog needs diapers you know a rethink is in order...



January 8, 2015 at 08:26 PM · I really liked playing in our adult only recital. The music school had several days of session which held about 10-12 players at each session. The very last session was adults only. If an adult wanted to play at any other time, they were welcomed to. I watched several sessions and really did feel a sort of pressure thinking about playing at a level lower than most of these kids. (most of them were very polished and somewhat advanced). They were used to being on stage and being around the other kids since they had group lessons together. I had none of that and felt that since i was an adult, i would be expected to be better. With the adult only session, there were only 6 players starting with the least experienced working up to some amazing college level players. I'm sure I was 15 years older than the oldest one there. The activity in the audience was more sparse, slower and more relaxed. I'm glad i was segregated. plus since there were only 6 of us, we got cupcakes instead of cookies. lol

January 9, 2015 at 04:02 AM · Clair,

If you only have one adult student, see if you can network with other teachers with few adult students to do a combined recital, or see if your student has musical friends who would like to do a recital.

In my piano quartet, the violinist's teacher puts on a "studio recital" with all of her adult students (all two of them) and welcomes their friends to join in on the recital. Between her two students, the last recital had about 5-6 groups/individuals performing - not just violin, but also viola, piano & cello. There was a potluck afterwards that went on for hours and was a blast! In the end, she picked up a new student from a friend of a friend who joined in on the recital (a pianist who was starting to learn violin on his own).

January 16, 2015 at 06:00 PM · I always encourage my adult students to participate in the group recitals.

They seem to enjoy it, and the parents of the other students also seem to always appreciate seeing the older student perform.

January 20, 2015 at 02:57 AM · I've played in a mixed recital and had a lot of fun despite the fact that I was the only adult student to show up. Haha

We played as an emsemble so no parents or audience members left early. The idea of an adults only is intriguing just because it'd be nice to talk to others in your boat.

January 20, 2015 at 04:02 AM · My daughter's studio has a concerto competition. Senior division is 13 and up. Surprised a few by entering (I'm ca. 50).

January 20, 2015 at 07:23 PM · Paul,

Technically, you do not qualify for "13 and up" competitions. At your advanced age, you only qualify for competitions listed as "13 and really high up." :-)

January 20, 2015 at 08:03 PM · Buri wrote:

"what's the problem about needing diapers when playing in front of the dog?

it's when the dog needs diapers you know a rethink is in order..."

Actually, it has nothing to do with diapers. The problem is the dog's howling sounds better than my playing.

January 22, 2015 at 03:14 AM · Smiley, I did qualify though! I dont expect to place, just want the performance opportunity and the panel's feedback.

January 22, 2015 at 05:08 AM · Greetings,

-The problem is the dog's howling sounds better than my playing.

Smiley, such a talented dog would be beyond price.



January 22, 2015 at 10:59 AM · The dog wasn't howling.

It was simply playing the Viola......

January 24, 2015 at 04:18 AM · You could just ask the adult students what they prefer, and go with that. With violin, I'd probably prefer an adult recital (I'm 51). But with horse riding, I ride in classes and clinics with kids... ages 10-18. Doesn't bother me at all.

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