Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Time to plan the Holiday Recital

I 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 time of the year again when many teachers hold a recital at the end of the year to coincide with the holiday season; I thought I would add onto Chris’s list, sharing my own experiences planning for studio recitals.

1. Recital fee – Decide if you are going to charge each student a recital registration fee. I used to view studio recitals as advertising opportunities, and absorbed all the expenses. Now I charge a recital fee to help cover venue hire, printing programs, refreshments, and also student prizes. As my studio grows and I am spending more time planning for the recitals, I also feel I need to be paid for my time, at least during the recital itself! Usually I barely break even, but I feel it is an important factor to consider whether a recital fee should be charged, and if so, how much.

2. Student prizes – Decide if you are going to reward each student at the end of the recital by presenting them with some sort of recognition for their efforts. I try to vary each recital and depending on budget, give different prizes. I have presented certificates, pins, medals, trophies, and also use the opportunity to present to those students who have special achievements, such as the National Piano Guild audition certificates or winning a competition. Students love to receive their prizes at the end of the recital, and it is also an incentive for them (and their families) to stay for the whole recital!

3. Duet/Ensemble/Family performances – apart from solo performances, I like to include these, especially for the holiday recital at the end of the year. I teach many siblings from the same family, and many of my students parents are musicians themselves, so it makes perfect sense to include ensemble performances in the program. These are often the highlights of the recital, and although nerve breaking, parents enjoy the opportunity to perform, too! One time I had a grandmother and her friend singing “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” while her grand daughter and I played a duet arrangement on the piano. It turned out to be such a moving experience for all. Including family members in the program can mean extra rehearsal time for you, but it can also inspire them to practice harder at home before coming to the lessons!

4. Teacher performances – do you perform a solo or two at your studio recitals? I started doing these when I first moved to Long Island from New Zealand, and did not have enough students for a whole recital. Having to perform solos myself give me the extra incentive to practice and brush up on my own skills as a performer. It is also a great advertising tool; the parents are hopefully ‘wowed’ by your skills and will get you more students!

5. Advertise your studio recitals – I always make a poster for my studio recitals, and try to post them everywhere in the community. If you look, there are many places where there is community notice board, including grocery stores and even Starbucks! Many community newspapers will also be willing to include event listings for free. Holiday recitals with festive music are especially popular. If you put in some time to advertise your recitals, you will usually find that time well worth spent, as you will get some new students afterwards!

These are some of the things that come to my mind, as I am planning for my next holiday recital. Do you have any other ideas? I would love to hear what other teachers do!

About the Author

Yiyi Ku
Yiyi Ku is a pianist and teacher. Born in Taiwan, she grew up in New Zealand and obtained her Master of Music degree with Distinction in Composition and Piano Performance from the University of Canterbury. Yiyi also holds a Licentiate in Piano Performance from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. She is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music in Piano from Music Teachers National As... [Read more]


  1. Catherine

    I have started charging a recital fee too. Even with the fee, I barely break even on expenses. If I’m lucky, after deducting expenses I usually get paid $50 or $75 for the countless hours I spent planning and running the recital. I have a large studio, and I start planning my recitals 4 to 6 months in advance. I also give medals and trophies, depending on the type of recital, and I give out special awards to students who have gone above and beyond (playing in competitions, getting a great score on the state theory exam, etc.). I think it’s important to reward and motivate students whenever we can! I serve refreshments or have the events catered, which also takes a big chunk from the recital fee. Oh, and I love having students and parents perform together too! I always look forward to those performances!

  2. Nicole Ballinger

    I appreciate hearing all the recital suggestions. I too have charged a fee of about $35 to cover piano accompaniment and awards, programs. In the past I’ve rented buildings… However this raised the fees to $50 to $60 per student. One way to keep the cost down is to hold it at a clubhouse of one of the parents or an assisted living clubhouse (which in a rich beach community are really nice). They love the opportunity to see my students perform, and the students get involved in giving back to the community. The students can count volunteer hours. And the activities director usually arranges to serve everyone punch and cookies afterwards. And depending on the venue they’ve even donated us a ‘performance fee’ which helps cover our time as teachers. Our students have really enjoyed doing it this way and many of their families and friends do as well 🙂

  3. Geraldine

    I learned a lot just by reading this. I’m starting a music studio and so far, I only have 5 students. I have some questions and hope some MTH members could also help or share with me some ideas. For your recital fee, do you charge each student a fee (i.e. $45/1 hr. lesson and $20 or $25 as recital fee) that is almost HALF of their 1 hour piano lesson? I’m looking at the total cost like buying snacks, venue fee, tokens, etc. and also for my effort of organizing everything and the 2 rehearsals prior to their recital. I hope someone can give me ideas or suggestions. Also, where can I buy music trophies, awards, certificates, programs? Is there any WEBSITES you can give me? Do you also give pins? More ideas please. Thanks much, I would really appreciate any comments or suggestions. I’m just starting my own studio.

  4. Yiyi

    Geraldine: how much to charge depends on your circumstances. Do you want to use the recital as a way to advertise your studio? You don’t want to charge too much that it becomes a burden for your students and no one wants to participate. It also depends on your location, and where the recital is held. It is a bit like lesson fees; every teacher charges different. I would suggest that since you are starting out, and have not too many students yet, that you do a simple recital, and keep the costs to a minimum. When yup have more students, you can do more elaborate recitals, charge more, as it will take you more time to plan those. To give you an example, about one year ago I moved to my current city, after about 2 months teaching, it was time for my usual holiday recital, but I did not have many students yet, so I held the recital at my house, and did not charge any fee. Now, I have a full studio, and this year we are going to a church for our holiday recital, but I am sharing the rental fee with other teachers (we each get a block of time), so I am still able to keep the cost down to $15 per student. Not everyone will be able to participate, due to other holiday commitments, so I am looking at breaking even with the expenses, not counting my time. Next year, I anticipate charging more, and hope to eventually cover my hours.

    As to awards for students, again, keep it simple at first. When you have more students, and you have more budget to work with, you can consider more elaborate things such as medals and trophies. Yes I usually order mine from a website, such as

    Remember, the main purpose of recitals should be for students to share their music and progress with one another and their families and friends. If you do some work to advertise it, you may get new students, that is a bonus; it will take many recitals before you are established, have enough students, that your recitals will break even, and you will actually be paid for all the time you spend organizing it.

  5. Geraldine

    Thanks Yiyi! I really appreciate your comment. I also would like to share this website to other music teachers: I’m hoping other colleagues would also share their own ideas on how to build their own music studios and deal with recital issues.

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