Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Lessons Learned from a Studio Recital

One of the highlights of my teaching year was my annual studio recital a few weeks ago. In spite of busy schedules, conflicting recitals, family commitments, and a few personal hurdles to overcome, most of my studio was able to perform at the Remenyi Room in Toronto’s Royal Conservatory for an appreciative audience.

But in order for studio recitals to go off without a hitch, the organizational process has as much to do with event planning as pedagogy. Here are some elements of studio recital planning that a teacher needs to take into account before the curtain goes up.

1. Find and book the room for the recital well in advance. To secure the Remenyi Room for a May recital, I needed to make the room booking in November. If you’re a private teacher looking for a recital venue, it might be a good idea to ask other teachers in your area which churches or halls they prefer, and to get the ball rolling earlier rather than later.

2. If you’re using a piano for the recital, determine whether or not you’ll need a technician. Many recital venues require the person booking the event to pay for the tuning. Even though the technician would probably be tuning the instrument just before the recital, you’ll need to engage him/her well in advance to ensure that the tuning gets done at the right time.

3. Tell your students about the recital as early as possible. This is where the emailing features of Music Teacher’s Helper come in handy.  You can send out an early announcement both inviting your studio to perform and inviting the parents to attend. Linking to a Google Map of the venue is also a great time-saver.

4. Determine repertoire for each student. This should also be done as early as possible before the event, but there are always seem to be procrastinators who can’t make up their mind until a few weeks before.

5. Email your studio again to determine which students will need to perform at the beginning of the recital and which near the end. One of my students had another recital to perform in that was scheduled to start a mere half-hour after mine. Needless to say, she went first. I also had younger students who probably couldn’t make it through the entire recital, so I scheduled most of them at the beginning, which left their parents free to leave at intermission.

6. Do you need an intermission? Depending on the size of your studio and the length of the program, either a short pause of full-length intermission might be a good idea. Many students and parents are relatively new to recital-going, and welcome a break to socialize and stretch their legs.

7. Create, print, and photocopy the program. You’ll need to make formatting, font, and text-size decisions, as well as figure out how many programs to print.

8. Are you going to include any add-on events? I have the privilege of teaching in the Royal Conservatory’s brand-new Telus Centre for Performance and Learning, which many of my students’ parents and friends had never seen until the studio recital. Fortunately, someone from the RCM’s Development office was on hand to give a 15-minute tour of the facility during the intermission. Other possible add-on events could include art mini-exhibitions, CD sales (esp. with your own recordings), and donation drives for non-profit charities.

9. Are you going to serve food? Having a pot luck reception following the recital is a sure-fire way to create a memorable event. You can also have the event catered, which a small admission fee should easily cover. Note: if you are serving food, you’ll have to allot time for the reception when making the initial room booking.

10. Schedule when the studio photo is to take place. The studio photo can be one of the most tangible memories of the event for everyone involved. If you have a large studio with traffic coming and going throughout the recital, you’ll need to set a time for the cameras to roll. I recommend doing the photo just before intermission, which guarantees that the highest number of students will be present.

11. Teach your students correct recital etiquette. Bowing is not a natural motion for much of us and needs to be taught. Other possible challenges for younger students include walking up to the recital bench, adjusting it if need be, getting seated, finding middle C, and starting the piece. I also talk to singers about how to introduce their piece and best strategies for bowing with their pianist during the applause.

Of course, not everything goes to plan during the event. Notes are missed and occasional memory slips occur from time to time. But miracles often happen. Students often find that playing in front of a supportive audience allows them to take that leap of faith to the next level of accomplishment. There were moments when I several of my students made musical decisions that were truly wonderful, and not as a result of anything that was “taught” to them. Above all, it is our responsibility as teachers to create a culture of performing that can bring enjoyment to both the musicians in your studio and the family and friends that support them.

What are some of your own studio recital tips? Do you have any interesting stories to share from recent recitals?

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3 Comments

  1. Dan the Music Master

    Lot’s of useful info here, especially the part about proper recital behaviour. I enjoyed the article!

  2. yiyiku

    You have covered many important points. The only thing or two that is missing from your list, from my own experience of organizing studio recitals, is whether or not you are going to charge a recital fee, and whether or not you are going to reward each student who performs a ‘prize’. I think we all agree that there is a lot of time and work involved in putting together a studio recital. Most places charge a venue fee. Then there is the printing cost, and perhaps even refreshments. I used to view studio recitals as advertising opportunities and therefore absorb the expenses, but I now have a policy where I always charge each student a recital fee if they want to play in the studio recital (most of the time I just barely break even). I also provide some sort of recognition to each student at the end of the recital – certificate of performance, medal, pin, their Guild certificate or any special outside achievements, and even trophy! It takes me a lot of time to think about what to present to the students each time, as I want to make each recital unique, so I don’t always want to give them the same things. Obviously trophies cost more than paper certificates, so my recital fees vary. I am also now of the opinion that if possible, I should be paid for my time, at least during the recital! What do others think? Do you charge students to participate in studio recitals? If so, how much? Do you give awards? If so, what kind? And how much do you spend per student? What is the average cost of a trophy in your city? I would be curious to know what other teachers do.

  3. […] am inspired to write this entry after reading Chris Foley's well written article "Lessons learned from a studio recital". Chris listed many important factors regarding how to plan for a successful recital. It is this […]

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