Music Teacher's Helper Blog

The Relaxed Recital

By Robin Steinweg

Recital Reception cookies, yum!

Recital Reception cookies, yum!

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:

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, 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.

About the Author

Robin Steinweg has found music to be like the creamy filling of a sandwich cookie--sweet in the middle--especially making music with family.
A great joy is seeing her students excited to make music for themselves. From her studio in Sauk-Prairie, Wisconsin, she teaches ages 4-84 piano, guitar, voice, woodwinds, ukulele and recorder.
Musically, she composes, arranges, performs, directs, consults... [Read more]


  1. Jill Herbold

    Love the idea for students to introduce each other!

  2. Robin Steinweg

    The students did too, Jill. They’ve asked to do it at recitals since then. Great practice! Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  3. Melody

    My preparation is similar. The month before we practice with video recording their recital etiquette so they may see how they look and sound which is quite helpful. I am one, too, who will offer a welcome and invocation which is calming to my students as well. I also sit beside students whether there is a student/teacher duet or no so they are not alone—they are comforted with me beside them in performance cheering them on with my big dumb smile because I am so very proud of each and every one of them! I do video recording the recital and them upload it to my YouTube unlisted account so they may send the link to family members around the country who were not able to attend. It is a joyous occasion as I remind them it is called playing for a reason!

  4. Robin Steinweg

    Melody, that’s so sweet! Thanks for commenting!

  5. Helene Goldnadel

    To newbie, allow yourself to envision the end of your performance. See yourself bowing, receiving applause and adulation and admiration, and shaking hands and smiling after “it’s all over.”

  6. Robin Steinweg

    Good encouragement, Helene! Kind of like, “Calgon, take me away!!!” 😀

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