This is the time of year when families are typically overscheduled, tired & counting down the days to vacation. Many studios, including mine, have at least one event before the break. This is despite the fact that we may feel much like our studio families. So, are Christmas studio activities worth it?
I’m going to say, “Yes!” but with a caveat. Let’s use a Goldilocks approach to our Christmas studio activities.
P.S. When I say “Christmas” studio activities, feel free to substitute “Winter” or “Summer” studio activities (depending on which hemisphere you live in).
You want to be sensitive to what our students & families are feeling right now. On the one hand, students are typically excited about the upcoming vacation & festivities. On the other hand, the adults (& this includes you) may be feeling a bit tired & ready for some lazy days around the house.
I know by Christmas vacation, I’m ready to turn off my alarm, grab a bunch of books, a few puzzles to do with my husband, & make sure the pantry has plenty of tea. My kids are eager to play video games before breakfast, watch movies, all while eating us out of house & home. But if their school did nothing before vacation, they’d be pretty disappointed. And, wondering why the festivities were taken away from them.
The same goes for our music studios. Having lessons right up until vacation with no change in the routine is a sure-fire way to have students checking out. I made this mistake when I first began teaching in the classroom. We did regular lessons until the very last day of vacation. My students hated it &, wow, did they make sure I knew it. Looking back, I wish I could tell myself that it was okay to loosen up & have fun. Even if it didn’t make it onto the report card.
Not having any Christmas studio activities can feel a bit like a punishment for our students. Having a half-hearted Christmas-themed worksheet that you assign the student to do during the week … while still having a regular lesson, can come across as too little as well.
Let’s say we want to create a really special lead-up for the vacation. Each week, we have new Christmas studio activities. To make things really special, studio parents are involved with almost all of them through prepping their child, attending or follow-up afterwards.
This can fall under “too much”. Especially if you have special needs students in your studio. (Recognize the signs that it’s too much here).
I’m an ideas person & get excited about incorporating new things into my teaching. But, I always have one of my former principal’s in my head reminding me it isn’t necessary to implement every idea. She encouraged me to be a “good” teacher, rather than worrying about being a “great” teacher. While this sounds odd, it’s helped streamline what I do in my studio so I don’t burn out myself, my students & their parents.
We don’t want anyone in the studio saying, “Thank goodness all those Christmas studio activities are over.” We want to leave them wanting more!
How do we make Christmas group lessons & recitals worth all the hassle? Because as wonderful as these activities are, they are a lot of work.
Be selective about what you do & what you ask your studio families to do.
In my studio, it is tradition to hold a group lesson the last week before vacation. This goes for Winter & Summer vacations. My students are ready for a change of pace. To be honest, so am I. And, it gives us a chance to get together for some fun before we go our separate ways for a few weeks.
Instead of having 2 lessons in one week, my group lessons are always held in lieu of the private lesson for that week. It gives students the change they crave, parents sign up for the date that works best for them (minimal change to their schedule), & I have a prep week booked for myself. It’s a win-win-win situation!
We also have a (virtual) Winter recital. Normally I would put a recital in the “too much” category for this time of year.
How will I make sure it’s just right & not too much?
Tips for a “just right” Winter recital approach
There are some ways to reduce the stress for everyone in the upcoming weeks. This is a time for celebrating our students & allowing their families to join in.
- Scheduled the recital early in the month before most other activities are happening.
- Have students play 1 -2 songs only. While it makes for a shorter recital, it takes the pressure off of preparing too many songs.
- Use these spring virtual recital marketing checklist & set-up checklist so things run smoothly. (No need to reinvent the wheel here.)
- Instead of having parents send in a recording, have a recording week during lessons. You still have a backup in case there are tech issues.
- Making sure almost all prep happens during lesson time so my studio parents get to relax before the recital.
Lastly, do something fun to prepare! My students (even some of my teens) loved getting off-the-bench & recreating the feeling of performing … in a playful, engaging way with the “5 Ways: Recital Prep Activities”. While they aren’t Christmas or Winter-themed, they will still be a great addition to a Goldilocks approach to the season!
Christmas studio activities + balance
Christmas studio activities are a wonderful thing! Keeping it to 1 or 2 projects keeps it from becoming overwhelming. We all need a little balance in our lives.
If you’re feeling a bit burnt-out after the whirlwind of the last several months, why not do a group lesson in lieu of private lessons for a week? Use ready-made activities that will keep your students engaged & raving to their parents about how much fun it was. They won’t even realize that you didn’t plan every activity from scratch!
If parents are saying they need a break, why not pre-record a winter recital during lesson time? Upload it to YouTube & send the link to families to watch on their own time. You could ask students to fill out a simple scavenger hunt as they watch the recital & hand it in for a special prize.
If students are feeling overwhelmed with school projects or other activities, why not focus on improvisation or make December a “no practice” month? Take the pressure off during lessons & the weekly practice expectations. I promise your students will appreciate it!
What is a “just right” approach for your studio this season?
NOTE: This article was originally published on November 18, 2020. It has since been updated to share new ideas & resources!