Meri’s Musical Musings

Making the most of small student recitals

Posted on: May 20, 2013

Many teachers, whether they are just starting out, have lost a large percentage of students in a short time, or have cut back the number of students they teach, became worried that their student recitals will not be impressive because the number of students is small, under a dozen, and sometimes with less than half that number. As a teacher who has hosted a number of small student recitals over the years (although my upcoming one will be the biggest in years thanks to a sudden dramatic increase in student numbers in the past month), there are a number of ways to make it more impressive, to make them last approximately 45 min. (Plus I recently sat through a recital that had about 20 students playing over a period of 90 minutes with no break, and I was quite sore physically after that)

One way to make your small studio recital more impressive is to have each student play more pieces in the recital. In a larger studio, they might only be permitted to play one or two pieces; in a smaller studio, some students, especially beginners, can do 4-6 pieces easily.

Another way to make small studio recitals impressive is to have ensembles, with the teacher, siblings in the same family, parent and student, or students who are close friends at school. Traditionally this is like-instrument duets, such as four hands one piano duets, or duets for orchestral instruments, but can include recorder ensembles if you have at least two other students playing it in school, or if siblings are studying two or more different instruments, have ensembles with the different instruments; one year at a clarinet student’s sister’s piano teacher’s recital, they got a lot of applause even though the piece was a late elementary clarinet piece with a mid-intermediate level piano accompaniment.

A third way is to combine a recital with other teachers, especially if at least one of the other teachers has free access to a quality performance space and you don’t, eg: one of the teachers has a church with a well-maintained grand piano because of being a musical director. This is especially effective if the teachers combining the recital teach instruments other than the ones you teach, or if they teach the same instrument, specialize in a different level of students than you do (eg: you work really well with beginners and intermediates, while one of the other teachers works best with advanced students) It can give the less advanced students a glimpse of what they could play if they stick with it, and, for students learning band and orchestra instruments in school, or will be within a year or two, instruments they may want to learn to play.

A fourth idea is to invite guest artists to perform a piece. This can also give students a sense of what they can achieve if they stick with it, as well as give students ideas of what instruments they might want to play. However, if you do this, seriously consider paying the guest musicians for their time, say $50-$75 or whatever the standard rate for a single piece is by the musician’s union.

A fifth idea is to incorporate a little info about the piece, the composer of the piece, or interesting facts about the student. In my studio recital last spring, I had a student who shared my birthday, and twice had students whose birthdays fall on the US Independence Day. (they weren’t my students at the same time, however) and have had students whose birthdays fall on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve, and Valentine’s Day. Sometimes a piece is based on a certain type of scale (eg: whole tone scale, pentatonic scale, or blues scale), or only uses as few as three different letter names of the notes (in different octaves) in the piece the student is playing.

Sixth, the teachers could also perform a solo for the students and parents. This idea is typically a hit with students, especially if most of the students are no more advanced than early or mid-intermediate level. Students LOVE to see the teacher in action, and the teacher could demonstrate what they’ve talked about covering up mistakes they made.

Finally, there could be additional presentations, with a short 3-5 minute photo slide show, a presentation of awards or participation certificates, or giving away cool door prizes that would be valuable in the students musical education.

Enjoy the small studio recital, by making the most of it! Many parents and students appreciate a studio recital that after performances, presentations, and post-recital reception, does not last for more than an hour and a half, especially if the families are busy or have young children that require a babysitter.


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  • V V: Wish I had read this before I fell for their scheme ! Oh well - have posted my experience on Yelp and N49 and hoping others can avoid the pain of fal
  • clariniano: Thanks for the additional information. It was actually Yelp that deleted my reviews, because of so-called bias. I too have seen the horrible technique
  • No Thanks: Former Teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music I took lessons at the Ontario Conservatory and when I left for private lessons from another tea
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