perform

Every music student will eventually face one of the most exciting and scary moments…the live performance.

As teachers, it’s important to prepare students to be ready when it comes to playing in front of an audience. There are a few things you will need to address.

First of all, it’s important to know that the focus here is going to be about music students in general, which could lead to all sorts of genres of music.

Everyone is different

Remember that every student is different.  Some students may have a harder time performing in front of people than others.

While as teacher you should give the same attention to every student, it’s important to ??

Stage Fright

This is the main hurdle for some musicians when playing for the first few times, however the worst aspect about stage fright is actually before actual performance.

For many musicians, stage fright, nerves or butterflies in the stomach go away the second they begin their performance.

For some it may be a bit more of a problem as it gets in the way of the actual performance with a cloud of doubt and insecurity.

This is normal and the best tip out there is to get used to it, like many things in life, being out of the comfort zone is not an easy thing. It’s scary at first but it’s also easy to overcome those fears with time.

You have to remind your students to not worry during the pre show routines, the most important thing before a live performance is to be focused and prepared, because this will carry your students throughout their stage fright when the time comes.

Live Behaviour and Mistakes

A musician’s focus is of course the music, but it is a show, and you need to let your students know that the show must go on, always.

As musicians get more comfortable in their “live performer selves” they will develop a stronger presence, but the most important thing for beginners and music students is to deal with mistakes in an elegant way.

It’s almost impossible to avoid mistakes, and you need to remind them of that hard fact.

What can be avoided is a poor way to handle those mistakes, which is to stop playing or making funny faces to indicate they made that mistake.

This is one of the most common mistakes young music students make, and the best way to overcome this, is to practice.

It should be clear however that there are two ways of practicing, general rehearsal and practicing specific parts of a musical piece.

When practicing a specific part, stopping is necessary, going back and doing it again, listen closely and fix every little mistake as much as possible.

But when rehearsing, the idea is to play or sing as if you were live.

What this does is that you get used to following the general structure of the music no matter what, making every mistake a tiny bump on the road instead of a stone wall.

Live Supervision and Support

For the younger students, it’s always good to let them know you will be there, not just as adult supervision but support.

If your students see a figure with whom they feel comfortable, their eyes will turn to them and it will no doubt give them confidence.

On the other hand, it’s always good to supervise and keep things under control if there are any unwanted surprises or negative behaviours.

A Few More Tips

Live

For pianists, it’s a good idea to have them practice the entire sequence from coming up to the piano bench to finishing the piece and bowing.

If you test them by placing the bench incorrectly on purpose and let them adjust it the right way, they will be better prepared for small situations like that.

In order to overcome their nerves, it’s a great idea to have them play in front of people, maybe start small, playing in front of their family, then small groups of friends.

This will help them get used to being heard and seen, while maybe also have a bit of feedback on where they lose strength throughout the performance which can be very helpful and important in their career as musicians.

Performances in the Calendar

Having a music organization software program like Music Teacher’s Helper can help you organize all of your performances. You are able to keep a calendar and add which students will be attending that particular event. You can also keep track of cover charges in the event as well! Come try us out for free for 30 days by clicking the Sign Up button at the top of the page!

 

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By Robin Steinweg

Recital Reception cookies, yum!

Recital Reception cookies, yum!

Oh, for a more relaxed recital! Jitters, butterflies, loss of sleep. At the worst, a sick tummy or stage fright. Brrr. Must our students experience these before every recital?

I believe students should know how to play under the increased pressure of a formal performance. But sometimes I’d like a relaxed recital.

Here are some ways I lowered recital anxiety this spring:

Start Early

*6 months ahead—secure the location.

*2-4 months—students choose songs (pending my approval). This gives them a sense of ownership.

*2 monthsget volunteers to help serve food and to video the recital. A wonderful stress-reducer for me.

*1 month—plan reception food, beverages, décor. Make lists of what I’ll need to bring (sound equipment, instruments, stands, programs…).

*1 month—memorize their pieces. But bring music just in case.

*1 month—send out reminders (via Music Teachers Helper) about date, time, location and volunteers. Ask each family to bring a dozen of something for the reception. This helped me so much!

Recital snacks Recital Healthy Snacks

*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. 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…).

*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.

*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. Students 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.

Krispie bars are always a hit

Krispie bars are always a hit

*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!

Tyler entertains before-hand

Tyler entertains before-hand

The reception was a hit,

Listening to Tyler helped them to relax!

Listening to Tyler helped them to relax!

and families stayed to visit. Students complimented one another and had a blast. They seemed much more relaxed for this recital. Win!

See? Happy and chillin' out!

See? Happy and chillin’ out!

Have you ever held a relaxed recital? What did you do to help your students have less stress?

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Student blooms musically

Student blooms musically

Best compliment I ever received (from a fellow musician) following a student recital:

“Your students made music—they didn’t just play notes, they played musically.”

I tucked it away in my heart, and I pull it out every so often. This is my highest goal for students. I have lots of goals for them, but none compare. I want students of piano to have a fine, rounded hand shape and non-collapsing knuckles—but it would be pointless if the music didn’t come from inside them at some point. I want them to practice till they are note-perfect—but I’d rather hear a few klinkers in a piece played with the whole heart than a flawless robot-like rendition.

But how do we get them from playing or singing halting, stilted notes—or even perfect notes—to making musical magic? Can it be taught, or only caught? Or must it simply grow to maturity?

Guitar PlanterMy present thought is that I can teach all the components that go into a beautifully musical performance, but something has to happen deep inside the student. It’s like a seed. I must amend its soil, cultivate it, fertilize it, remove weeds, water it, warm it, show it the sun… but I cannot force it to grow and bloom. The things I provide all go in, but what comes out is beyond my control.                                                                 

Before music happens, students must hear the real deal. Heart-felt performances by other musicians (try youtube, or better yet, encourage your students to attend concerts—oh, and don’t forget to demonstrate it yourself!). They must hear about the real deal, too. Awareness helps. I tell about and show them the details that go into it. If there are lyrics, we talk about how we’d say or sing them. The high points and low points, any surprises. We talk about how music makes us feel, and why. I tell them they have the capacity to move their audience, to entertain them. Or maybe they are their own audience—can they play so movingly that it affects their own emotions? Do they throw themselves into it?

I love it when the student reaches the point where I can say, “Excellent. You have the notes down perfectly. Now let’s make music!”

What do you think? Can making music be taught, caught, or must it be grown? How do you get your students to blossom–to do more than simply play notes on a page?

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