The Best Type Of Recital To Host In Your Piano Studio

What is the best type of recital to host in your studio?  You may be tempted to think that this is limited to the venue or whether it’s online or in-person, but a recital is so much more than just a place.  It’s also about the intent & the mood of a recital.  And, that is unique to each studio.

What a venue says

The options for where to host your recital are much great than they were even a year ago.  And, each option influences the type of recital you will host.
A popular option is to rent a venue that is large enough for the whole studio to gather.  Some studios opt to have in-home recitals.  It’s convenient & a familiar instrument for students to play on. But, any type of indoor venue has been a challenge in the past year with restrictions & rules changing so rapidly.
Many teachers moved online & hosted virtual recitals.  This has been amazing for my studio!  Sure the audio is not as good as in-person, but there are other benefits.  Like having close to half the recital attendees being grandparents of students.  After our first online recital, almost every grandparent wrote back to say they had never heard their grandchild perform.  How incredible is that?
I’ve been impressed with the ingenuity of teachers hosting outdoor recitals.  Whether out on the deck in the backyard or creating a drive-by concert, teachers have found a way to capture the in-person feel from previous recitals in a way that keeps everyone safe during a pandemic.
Each of these venues will by its nature create a different type of recital.  Depending on the venue, it could be formal or informal, concert or community building, grand or intimate.  And, each will have a slightly different prep list to pull off successfully.

Intent matters

Why do you host a studio recital?  I’m hoping the answer isn’t “because we always have a recital at this time of year”.  Don’t get me wrong.  I think a recital is a fantastic event to hold in your studio once or even multiple times per year.  But, there should be a reason why you have a recital.

If your students do exams each year, this may be where students have a ‘practice performance’ of their pieces.  This influences the type of recital you have.  Dressing up, stage presence, memorization, perfect execution of each piece, & bowing at the end will probably all be required.

If performance opportunities are a must for you, then you may have a mix of the types of recitals you host.  Some will be more formal like above whereas others may be more informal.  The venue might change & even the wording you use to describe the events might change: recital, concert, performance party, drop-in/open house, jam session, etc.

In my studio, our recitals are all about community building.  Before the pandemic, I was a traveling teacher.  This meant that the only time my students & their families saw each other was for group lessons & recitals.  Now that my studio is online, the same holds true.  And, that means I needed to be intentional about creating opportunities that keep families enrolled for years.  These were events in which we cheer each other on, visit with each other & feel connected in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

None of these reasons are more right or wrong than others.  Intent matters though in planning the right type of recital for your studio.

Set the right mood

Just like choosing the right venue & knowing your intention, setting the right mood is crucial in hosting a successful event.  While the ‘serious’ work of preparing for a recital doesn’t change, the activities you do, advertising you create (including invitations, recital programs, etc.) & how you talk about the recital will change.  Going back to our three options of exam prep, performance opportunity & community building, what does this look like?

If students are getting ready for an exam, songs will have been determined by an exam syllabus.  The expectation will be that songs can be played perfectly from a technical standpoint … & hopefully, from an artistic standpoint the student can bring out the mood of their piece as well.  The mood of the recital will be more formal to fit with the gravitas of the purpose.
When the goal is a performance opportunity, there can be a lot of variety since studios that value this may have ‘recitals’ every few months. These may be themed & students choose from a set list of pieces that fit their level & the theme.  Other times, students may pick any song from any genre.  It’s a chance for students to show off & practice playing in front of an audience in a variety of settings.  And just like if they were working musicians, the mood of each recital will change depending on the type of recital or ‘gig’.
For community building, the mood is less focused on the types of songs students choose & more on creating an engaging, uplifting experience for both performers & attendees.  You may see a cute monster saying there is “only 1 more sleep until the recital” in my studio social media.  The recital program, while designed with care doesn’t always use a formal font.  And, everything in the weeks leading up to the recital is focused on getting parents & students excited about this community event.

When a mistake happens

In my studio, I teach students that are both neurotypical & neurodiverse (special needs).  Because of this, I’ve learnt that if a student makes a mistake while playing a song during the recital, they may need a different approach than your typical studio.  At first, I was worried that parents would frown upon this change from the norm, but it turns out my fears were for nothing.
In a recent online recital, one of my students was playing a song he wrote (something all my students do).  But, disaster struck when his fingers played the wrong left-hand notes in one measure.  Because his hand position had changed, every note after was wrong.  And, he knew it.  As soon as he finished playing, he turned away from the piano & started to leave the room.  He knew that he had played much better & was disappointed in his performance. 
So, I called after him & asked if he would like to play his song again.  I told him I could see he was disappointed & if he wanted the chance, then he could have it.  Thankfully, my student opted for that option because he rocked playing his composition!  The attendees had huge smiles on their faces & cheered with enthusiasm for him after his song.  Not only did he get a chance to share how he really could play, but it took a negative experience & turned it into a positive.

The result

Now, here is where it gets really interesting.  Right after the recital, I received at least 4 different messages from parents & grandparents saying how impressed they were with how this young musician had had the courage to play his song again.  They had loved seeing how he came back from a rough performance & wanted to make sure he knew how much they appreciated it.
Would this happen in every studio?  No.  But, because I have been clear on the type of recital we hold in my studio & ensured every aspect of the prep, marketing & wording within the event matches that, everyone knows what to expect.

Choosing the best type of recital

As you can see, there is no best type of recital for every studio.  It all depends on what your intention is for the recital.  This can change from event to event or even year to year.  Or, like me, you may have an overall goal that stays the same … even if it looks a little different from year to year.
If your recital goal is to keep things light & fun for your studio, I would highly recommend making sure all aspects of prep keep to that goal.  Instead of endless repetition, giving students fun ways to practice their recital songs is a must.  And if they can choose the activities, even better!

In my studio, we used “5 Ways: Recital Prep Activities” to change up the routine & have fun while we practiced.  To get your copy, click below.

Get Your Copy of "5 Ways: Recital Prep Activities"!

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