By Robin Steinweg
With a recital looming on the horizon, some of my students asked how they could prepare to perform before an audience. So I made it the subject of a master class.
Snacks came first—the best-ever ice breaker. I found out some of their favorite cookies ahead of time, and did a little baking. It’s surprising how food warms the student heart and softens the attitude. Apple cider and some new flavors of candy corn brought a fall flavor to the table. Some gourds for décor, and we were all set.
I got out my white board and asked the group a few questions about how they would prepare to perform. They recorded their answers on the board in their favorite colors. Let me share some of them. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s this group’s list, and I applauded them for it:
WHY perform for an audience?
Gives others pleasure
Gives you experience and confidence
Lets you share something you love with others
You can show off how hard you’ve been working
Things to do to prepare to perform:
One to three months ahead of time:
Choose a piece and learn it
Play it a LOT
Polish it up with dynamics, expression
One to two weeks ahead of time:
Schedule an extra lesson if needed
Practice daily—figure out how many days till the performance, and practice harder!
Try the song at different speeds
Play the piece on different pianos if possible, or in different types of rooms
(sing in a concrete stairwell, in a library or small carpeted room, or in a gym)
Practice with as many distractions as possible to help learn to ignore them–more preparation hints here
Play for family, friends, pets, anyone who will listen
Days ahead and the day before:
Get enough rest and sleep
Drink plenty of water
Practice as if you had an audience listening
The day of the performance:
Think through the song
Trim your nails (if your instrument calls for it)
Warm up ahead of time
Eat healthy—don’t skip meals! (actually, a couple of students thought they
should not eat when they are preparing to perform. I vetoed this idea!)
Get cleaned up and dress nicely
Pull hair back away from face
Right before the performance:
Think your song
Adjust bench, find pedal, place music, find hand positions, check your tuning, move the
microphone or music stand to you (don’t stretch your neck to reach it)
Look at the teacher to make sure everything is good to go
Breathe to relax
Wait until really ready to begin
If singing, find a focal point or two (this hint was from a teacher friend of mine, Lori)
Think the opening of your song
Be careful not to start too fast
Enjoy your piece! (this was me talking)
If you make a mistake, just keep going
I reminded them the windshield of a car is bigger than the rear view mirror because a driver needs to look forward more than back. Similarly, if they make a mistake, they should look forward, not back. They might glance back, but they mustn’t lock their eyes on the mistake behind them or they’ll crash.
At the end of the white board portion I made sure I had their attention and said, “When you play or sing your last note, the song is over, but the music hasn’t ended.”
I let that sink in, then said, “Let it float on the air a moment or two. Don’t be in a rush, that ending moment is like the frosting on the cupcake.”
When you play or sing
your last note,
the song is over,
but the music hasn’t ended.
After that, each student performed a song for the others, and they practiced listening and making specific, positive comments at the end of each performance.
When they were all done, I told them, “Offer your song to the audience as a gift from you to them. No one else will ever give this gift in exactly the same way—even you! You are giving them a memory, a feeling, a great pleasure, an experience—from your heart.”
How do you prepare to perform? I’d love to add to my students’ list for a future master class!