Are Student Recitals Helpful or Harmful?
I know the traditional logic is that student recitals are standard, and that everyone should do them.
However, I think it would be interesting to note some of the advantages vs disadvantages with holding them.
Here are the ones I've thought of:
1) Motivates students to practice more (either by fear of embarrassment or by a desire to demonstrate what they've worked for).
2) Gives parents/relatives a chance to see how their child is progressing (assuming that they don't normally attend lessons or listen at home).
3) Teaches students how to organize themselves around a specific goal, rather than aimlessly improving without any particular timeline.
4) Keeps the teacher motivated, since the student's progress will be shown to all.
5) Desensitizes students to public performing (theoretically, although this can also go in a negative direction)
6) Gives students a chance to meet each other, and sort of doubles as a social event.
1) Causes inefficiency by forcing a specific timeline, regardless of where the student is with their current piece of music. Thus, either the student goes to the recital somewhat unprepared with their current "challenge piece", or has to spend extra time polishing an old "comfort piece" to play.
2) High-pressure situation which not every personality type responds well to. Some will bomb their performance, and reinforce their already-existing nervousness.
3) Can discourage slower learners (although some might consider this an advantage), since they see others performing far better, despite similar effort.
4) Takes time/money/energy away from the teacher's schedule.
I'm curious on everyone's thoughts on this subject, and perhaps on your own experiences/memories associated with recitals. Did you find them helpful/motivating when you used to do them, or did you find them to be damaging experiences and/or a waste of time?
Interesting perspective. You make many good points. I would argue, though, that many of the items in the ‘disadvantages’ actually result from not enough performing experiences. (Slow learner, stage fright, unprepared or having to spend too long on a comfortable piece,) etc. The more performances one has to prepare for and execute, the faster and better one becomes at preparing efficiently and throughly!
If a student wants a career performing music either as a pro or as a hobbyist, they need to learn that audiences will not wait for them and their stage fright or their modesty. If you aren't pushing a student to perform then you're only failing them down the road.
While it's true that students should be prepared for performing, Cotton, there are ways of doing that without resorting to recitals.
I prefer the model of monthly or biweekly studio classes when any student who is ready can play in a less stressful situation. Then, if and when they are ready, both musically and emotionally, they can play on a recital.
Having had two kids go through Suzuki programs with many recital appearances, I can assure you that there is no perfect way. I would strongly encourage teachers to err on the side of ensuring that the student has a positive outcome.
My kids' recitals were always fun events for them, fairly low pressure, getting families together, often more than one studio (clarinetist husband and cellist wife, or two smaller studios). Some competitions and graded events though were inefficient and stressful, "sound to be judged, not music" as my son would write, working half the year to get closer to the last 10% of perfection. Chamber music, with the satisfaction of learning and performing great music rather than chasing solo competitions was a better fit for my kids, as well as something they enjoyed doing together. A related observation, I think the further along the kids got, the less-well a one-size-fit-all approach worked, but it's how a lot of studios wanted to do this, maybe moreso for piano than strings.
My first instinct is to say: you're missing the most obvious reason, the delight of performing, of speaking our music, sharing our voice! I do see you've clarified you're not questioning the concept of performing, just the means and I hear you on that. I guess I just think of the recital as opportunity, more than pressure!
Music is a performing art, so I do think that it's important to play for other people.
Another good option is to just schedule the "recital" in a nursing home or other outreach site (school, library, shelter, etc.). Less pressure, built-in audience, and you are really doing what you should be doing -- playing music for people. My kids have done a lot of outreach performances over the years, and it benefits everybody involved.
Great collection of opinions by everyone. I would only add one advantage and one disadvantage:
Performers need as many opportunities to perform as possible, and yet recitals are often remembered by people as a bit traumatic. So what are the factors that can make a recital an empowering experience vs a source of trauma?
To quote from the song "Ah, yes! I remember it well." As an adult beginner I was encouraged to participate in a recital. Young musicians and me and most of them were a whole lot better musicians than I was. Yet, my stated goal was to play the soprano/descant line of hymn tunes so I needed experience playing in front of others.
A friend of mine is a piano teacher who holds student recitals 2 times a year. She was going through a rather challenging time awhile ago so I offered to help her run 2 recitals. Granted, her recitals were more elaborate than most with a catered reception (this was Pre-COVID) but even without those elements, it'd have taken hours and hours of work.
Our chamber music organization does what Susan's does, there are several retirement communities that have been hosting yearly or twice-yearly programs with 4-6 groups; the top groups get to do their own hour-long performances. The kids get a lot of encouragement from this. There are also churches in the area with strong music programs that invite a group or two to perform, as well as a couple of libraries.
I'm in the "it all depends" camp.
Depends how often you indulge.
Kiki wrote, "If you are charging a flat monthly fee, then I'd count the recital as a lesson and cancel all classes that week."
I think my parent's goal in exposing me to music and starting me on instrument lessons was to help make music and (if possible) music making a rich part of my whole life. I think that is why most parents do this.
Too much to respond to here, but Paul said:
Paul, I remember having to buy min of 4 $25 tickets ($100 total) for my little one to participate in a ballet recital. Plus I had to pay $50 to rent her costume. I remember the whole event cost me close to $300 with pictures, DVD, etc. and she was on stage for literally less than 2 minutes.
I can definitely see mandatory recitals as being problematic. That's how it was when I was young, and it was pretty traumatizing. After several repetitions of being forced against my will to perform, I begin to associate performance with fear and a lack of free will.
I had to laugh at "paying to embarrass myself." Perhaps re-frame as "paying for a captive audience who will listen to you, no matter your level of skill"?
When I was teaching in my private studio, I just charged the regulary monthly fee to my students, and put it in the bank. From that I budgeted out my pay, recital costs, teaching supplies, taxes, etc. If costs weren't covered, I knew it was time to raise rates.
The only piano recital fees we've had to pay were for renting a hall, split amongst the parents, maybe $150 for all. But the kids got to play a really wonderful Bosendorfer Imperial concert grand. Recitals with a college teacher were in the school's recital hall, with nice 7- and 9-foot Steinways. Strings recitals were always in a church the teacher had a relationship with. Still with nice pianos, and no fee. But the accompanist would be paid something like $50-70 per person, which I used to think was a little high for going through kids' repertoire, but each person probably got enough time to justify that for rehearsals and performance. I've never seen anyone forced to play, but playing was part of taking lessons. And I like the studio class idea; the strings teacher would do that once a year in early December, usually without parents until the last few years, as a holiday celebration.
Another gripe I have with the same teacher is that he took a few students out of the recital because they didn't polish their piece well enough. They only found out during the rehearsal with the pianist that they aren't allowed to perform the next day because they aren't ready. The teacher probably thought it would be more cruel to let them perform when they weren't ready. The whole thing left me speechless.
@Kiki, sounds like the teacher should have given better teaching earlier so that there wasn't a problem on the day. Also maybe he felt that the recital was for showing off his talents, not those of his students.
Or maybe he thought that the compulsory "opportunity" to perform would kick their practicing into higher gear. From what I've witnessed, that kind of magical thinking rarely works out.
There is one aspect that has not been mentioned. Children generally don't suffer much from performance anxiety (unless their parents talk them into it). It seems a good idea to have them perform in some framework before teenage hits with all its uncertainties including performance anxiety. This way they have a record of achievement to look back on which should make things easier.
Regarding children and performance anxiety, I have two children, and on the basis of my own observations of them (N = 2), my conclusion is "some do and some don't."
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