Organizing "The Perfect Recital" Darlene Irwin May 19, 2014
It's May and many music teachers are busy planning for their year-end recital. It can be a very busy and stressful time of the year. Along with the recital planning, there are also student exams plus preparing for next fall. I would like to share some of the effective ideas that I have used for planning, organizing and preparing for "The Perfect Recital".
- Start planning early. Finding the best piece for each student takes time. They need time to prepare and hopefully, memorize their song. It's better to have the song up early and put it on a shelf for a few weeks then to be rushing at the last minute.
- Once a piece is picked, don't let anyone else play that song. Students love having their own 'special' song. Sometimes they even pick their song for the Christmas recital before the summer break!!
- Take care to choose pieces that showcase the student's strengths. Also keep in mind the level of difficulty. Try to encourage them to choose something that is a challenge but that they can reasonably perfect for the recital. It's so important that they feel good about their performance.
- Timing is essential for a successful recital. The perfect length for a 'father friendly' recital is about 60-75 minutes. As a rule of thumb, each performance should not exceed five minutes. Of course, this also depends upon how many students are performing. Longer songs can be performed in a master class setting. If students are doing a piece that can be modified (i.e. a popular piece), then help them come up with an arrangement of the piece that is not too long, but will still showcases their playing. This is also a valuable skill for them to work on!
- Make sure that the students are well prepared. That way, the program will flow well. I don't require that they play from memory unless they are preparing for an exam or audition. However they will play better and with more confidence if their song is memorized. We work at memorizing the pieces in small sections, preferably hands separately! Then they can chose to use the music or not, depending on their comfort level. Some take the book up with them and never look at it! This helps to take the stress out of performing.
- Try to have a variety of fast and slow songs. Make sure that there are not too many slow songs in a row. It's also good to have a mixture of musical styles including classical and popular pieces.
- Spice up the program with a few special numbers. These pieces should be spaced evenly throughout the program. It's a good idea to list the performers and the piece on the program, but I like to surprise the audience by not giving the details of the performance. There is no need to have them announce their pieces at the recital if there is a program. This also saves time. Make sure each student has a copy of the program.
- Pool your resources by involving musical parents or siblings. Maybe some of your students sing or play other instruments. A small choir or vocal ensemble is a fun addition. Try adding duets and trios. The special numbers for my upcoming June recital include two trios, two regular duets (one with a CD backtrack), one piano/harp duet and one piano/organ duet. We also have a student playing a harp solo and a parent playing accordion.
- It's important to keep parents in the loop when it comes to recital planning. I send reminders via e-mail at regular intervals. I also send an information sheet to each family about a week before the recital. This includes important information such as the student's seat number, the piece they are playing, any special numbers they are involved in and what snack the parent is bringing. There is also a map to the recital venue, what time they should arrive, what time the recital starts and any special instructions on dress code.
- My students always look forward to the social time after the recital. At Christmas, I make a special piano cake for the students (see picture at the end of the blog) and the parents help by bringing refreshments. We always take a class picture for the recital history book! The social time gives me an opportunity to visit with the families and friends of the students. (Note...my recital history book contains all the programs and class pictures from previous recitals. It's on display at every recital. Students love to look back and see the progress they have made. They also love to see how they have changed!)
- I find it works well to have the students sitting at the front of the hall. It helps to have numbers on the student's seats. That way, the students know where to sit and what order they play in. This facilitates the flow of the program. I used a free musical font called Onpu to print the numbers seen below. I'll include a link to this font. I downloaded the font and printed the numbers directly onto coloured card stock. Then I had the cards lamented. You can set custom margins to print onto 3x4" cards.
I've included a link for my Blueprint for a Perfect Recital planning sheet. I follow this blueprint every time I'm working on a recital. I've uploaded the Word version of my file so you can modify it for your particular circumstances.
I've also included a link for my Recital Planning Charts. This Excel file has 4 different charts (see the buttons across the bottom of the Excel screen). I've left some of my information on the files from my upcoming recital to show how I use the four different charts. This can be easily erased. Here are the charts that I use to organize my recital:
- Initial Planning Chart: This chart is used for picking the pieces and planning the program. All the students are listed in the order that I teach them in the week. They are only allowed to play one regular piece each. I update the information on the computer and print a new sheet every week. I can keep track of progress, make necessary changes and work at timing the recital. The special numbers are listed at the end (orange). Seven to ten special numbers per recital works well. These numbers add interest to the program and give keen students a chance to do something else.
- Program Planning Chart: This chart is used to place the pieces in order for the program. Special numbers are listed in dark print and are placed throughout the program as surprises! This chart has a place for seat numbers. I can also use this chart to take attendance on the day of the concert and there is a column for final timing of the program.
- Final Program Planning Chart: Just before the recital, all the information from the 2nd sheet is copied onto the 3rd sheet. There are no lines on this chart, so you use it to generate the final program. You can then have the program printed on special paper.
- Refreshment Sign-up Chart: This is a sign-up sheet for refreshments. It's posted on my board in the waiting room about 2 weeks before the recital.
Remember that the recital should be fun for both students and parents. Many students have told me that both the Christmas recital and the June recital are the highlights of the year. Very few students miss these events and I rarely have a problem with students leaving early. They look forward to sharing their music with their families and with each other in a relaxed and enjoyable environment. And they especially look forward to the treats afterwards!
Have fun planning "The Perfect Recital"!