By Robin Steinweg
Jitters, butterflies, loss of sleep—and at the worst, a sick tummy or stage fright. Brrr. Must our students experience these before every recital?
While I believe they should know how to play under the increased pressure of a formal performance, sometimes I’d like a relaxed recital.
Here are some ways I lowered the level of anxiety this spring—for myself and for my students:
*6 months ahead—secure the location.
*2-4 months—students choose songs (pending my approval). This gives them a sense of ownership.
*2 months—get volunteers to help serve food and to video the recital—a wonderful stress-reducer for me.
*1 month—plan reception food, beverages, décor, and make lists of what I’ll need to bring (sound equipment, instruments, stands, programs…).
*1 month—memorize their pieces (but still bring their music just in case).
*1 month—send out reminders about date, time, location, volunteers, and ask each family to bring a dozen of something for the reception—helped me so much!
*3 weeks—students dictate 2-4 sentences about themselves. I type an introduction for each of them. This was a great tension-diffuser at the recital, since the intros often got people laughing (one student likes to wear pajamas to lessons, another likes her brothers to bug her when she practices because it trains her to concentrate in spite of distraction…) J
*3 weeks—decide the order (consider age, level, variety).
*3 weeks—distribute introductions to the students—each one will introduce the next. Have them practice reading these aloud. Tell them to bring them to the recital, but not to stress out if they lose them, since I’ll bring a master copy. This was an effective way to deflect attention onto others instead of themselves. Less tension!
*3 weeks—invite families and suggest they invite friends and relatives.
*2 weeks—focus on expression. Students should practice hands separately and together slowly, to ensure songs are played consciously—not by muscle memory (which can vaporize if anything unexpected occurs).
*2 weeks—students rehearse logistics (sit in order of performance, get to the instrument quickly, introduce the next student…). A big stress-reducer.
*2 weeks—explain recital etiquette—set the example for adults and visitors. No talking, whispering, giggling or wiggling. No cell phones or other noisy electronics.
*2 weeks—send ideas for snacks. This time I was made aware of people with potentially life-threatening nut allergies, so I needed to alert my families and make suggestions.
*2 weeks—do my recital/reception inventory and shopping.
*1 week—let families know what to expect when they arrive. Ask a couple of students to greet people and hand out recital programs. Visitors felt welcome!
*Recital Day—set up food and recital room early.
**What may have helped most to promote a Relaxed Recital: I had a graduating senior, in lessons with me for nine years. He’s played in coffee houses and for weddings. He entertained for nearly fifteen minutes before-hand. I let everyone know about this so they were prepared to come and listen. Students had little time to be nervous about their own performances, focusing instead on the cool guy playing and singing!
The reception was a hit, and families stayed to visit. Students complimented one another and had a blast. They seemed much more relaxed for this recital. Win!
Have you ever held a relaxed recital? What did you do to help your students have less stress?
Getting a good management program to help me run my business also helped a lot, as the students and parents can log in as well.