Why perform?

I have a small studio of students that I teach music to privately.  I love the one-on-one interaction, the personalities of each student, and the unique opportunity I get to see growth and change in my students each week.  There are many people who pursue the job of private music instructor for the same reasons.  Private music instruction is incredibly beneficial for students in so many ways that I have mentioned in other posts.  Unfortunately many private teachers miss the mark in one essential aspect to musical learning:  performance.

Would an artist work hours on drawings, sculptures, photographs, or paintings only to store them away, never to be seen by anyone else?  The answer is they wouldn’t.  Artists and actors work hard on their work and are validated by sharing it with others.  Music works the same way.  Students who participate in school music programs have many opportunities to perform, but mostly only in large groups.  In these groups individual students tend to get lost among the other students and they often can feel unnecessary.  Providing opportunities for students to perform in small groups or solo gives them the chance to feel important and to realize that their hard work and practice does pay off.

In addition to giving students a sense of accomplishment solo and small ensemble performances encourage students to practice and practice more effectively.  Effective practice is more than just playing exercises and songs from start to finish, it is in depth examination of an exercise or piece as well as examination of the student’s strengths and weaknesses.  These examinations teach students to study better and teach them about themselves in ways that nothing else does.

As private instructors we have a special obligation to provide these unique opportunities to our students.  Private music teachers should take the time to plan and prepare students for at least one recital each year.  Recitals give students a chance to demonstrate the skills they have developed in their lessons and give parents the chance to enjoy the fruits of their expense.  Recitals can be difficult to plan, they take time, organization, and sometimes money, but are always well worth the effort.

Here’s a few tips on how to go about planning for a recital:

  • Try to plan for a time that won’t be stressful for your students.  In other words, don’t plan a recital during the last month of school or near the end of a semester.  Also shoot for scheduling your recitals at a time when people aren’t trying to take vacations.  I try to hold two recitals each year, one in December, usually before the 15, and one in early May or early June.
  • Check with your local city, libraries, schools, and music stores for a venue.  Many cities have community centers with pianos that can be reserved for free or cheap; libraries sometimes have a conference room, but may not have a piano; and schools or music stores have gyms and auditoriums, but these often come at a steeper price.  Make your reservations early, as in months early, since the free spaces fill up quickly.
  • If you are not a strong accompanist arrange for one.  If you don’t run a piano studio, meaning you teach voice, flute, trumpet, or any other solo instrument, find someone who can play piano for your students and pay them.  Sometimes parents or siblings can provide accompaniment, but this should be something parents can enjoy so try not to rely on them too much when possible.
  • Keep recitals short and sweet.  If you have a large studio this means one piece per student.  If you have a smaller studio each student can play a solo and a duet (or other small group piece), or you can combine with another teacher.  I try to keep recitals to an hour, hour and a half max.
  • You should plan to perform as well.  Show your students that you support them, the parents that you are worth what they are paying you, and yourself that you still enjoy your craft by preparing a piece and also performing in the recital.
  • Prepare a program that mom’s can scrapbook, students can use in a portfolio, and guests can use to follow the recital.
  • If you plan a reception after the recital be sure food is allowed in your space and check for allergies.
  • Coach your students in proper recital etiquette.  Teach students to bow, how to introduce their piece, to recognize the accompanist, and to respect their peers by staying for the entire recital and applauding appropriately.
  • Send a note home, an email, or a letter as an invitation for parents.  Also include instructions for attire, the address for the venue, the date and time for the recital, and any other instructions you deem necessary.

Give students and parents a chance to enjoy the fruits of their labors, to be validated for their hours of practice and lessons by providing students with opportunities to perform.  Even if your students participate in school ensembles recitals provide important performance opportunities that students don’t get in large ensembles.