Piano recital season is here! Most piano studios feature a big piano recital to wrap up the school year and to show off all of the wonderful progress students have made throughout the year.
Many students probably have mixed feelings about recitals. The idea of performing in front of a crowd might make them feel a little bit nervous or scared, but they are also often a fun and encouraging experience for kids. Knowing there is a recital on the horizon often helps students stay focused and motivated, whether they’re willing to admit it or not.
As the parent, there are a number of things that you can do to help your child prepare for the recital. These tips are good things to be thinking about, but of course, it’s also important to be in communication with your student’s teacher to make sure everything is on track.
Related: Parent’s Guide To Music Competitions
Months Before The Recital
Your teacher has probably set the date for the recital months in advance. Make sure you have that date on your calendar and set it as a priority. A big piano recital only comes once a year, so consider saying no to other activities that pop up on that day. It’s tempting to want to do everything, but when we squeeze a recital in around too many other things, it becomes more difficult to enjoy the experience and to give it the attention it needs and deserves.
Start inviting friends and family to the recital to see your student perform. It is so special for students to have a fan club at their recital to cheer them on. Make sure grandparents, aunts and uncles and important friends know about the recital.
Beginning students probably don’t need several months to prepare a recital song, but as students start to progress, they absolutely need to start practicing their music months in advance. Often times, students have a natural choice for a recital – something that they love to play or something that they have already worked really hard on. Other times, students choose to learn something special just for the recital. Be aware of which route your student is taking.
Help your student understand that preparing for a recital is a long term commitment. Students often feel tempted to want to change up their song selection at some point during the process. There might be times when this will work out just fine, but there are also times when it’s definitely better to stick with the original plan. Be sure to be in communication with your teacher if this happens.
In these months leading up to the recital, one of the best ways to prepare is to simply get your student into a really solid practice routine. Make piano practice an integral part of each day. Piano performances are not something that can be crammed for or prepared at the last minute. The best experience will result from months of preparation.
In The Weeks Leading Up To The Recital
Recital music needs special preparation. Not only do students need to learn and practice the music, they also need to learn and practice how to perform the music.
Check in with your student frequently to make sure their music is progressing well.
In most cases, memorizing music for a performance is ideal. Make sure your student is on track with memorizing. Memorizing music is not something that can happen overnight or at the last minute. I like for most of my students to have their music completely memorized one month before a performance.
If you notice that the music is not coming together during at-home practice, check in with the teacher to find better ways to practice it.
My number one tip for practicing for a performance is to practice slowly. This is counter-intuitive for a lot of students because they often think that always need to play it at performance tempo. However, careful, slow practice is the very best way to ensure that music will sound it’s best on performance day. If your students’ music sounds messy or rushed, definitely work with them to slow down.
Give your student opportunities to practice performing their recital song. When friends or family are visiting, have your student take their recital song for a test drive in front of a friendly audience.
See if your student can perform for their music class at school or for a group at your church.
If you happen to be around a piano away from home, encourage your child to sit down and try out their song.
Every piano feels and plays differently. There is a good chance the piano at the recital venue will feel different than your piano at home and your teacher’s piano. Students who have experience playing many different pianos learn to adapt quickly and play well on any instrument.
The Day Of The Recital
Try to keep the recital day as normal as possible. If possible, don’t overbook the day with too many activities. Give your student space to mentally prepare for the recital and to have time to practice and feel confident with their music before the recital.
Have your student’s recital clothes ready to go and make sure you know if you need to bring anything to the recital. If a student’s music is memorized, they won’t need to bring a book, but often times, students like the security of looking at the book in the car ride to the recital and knowing that it’s nearby.
Don’t let your student over practice on the day of the recital. It’s easy to start obsessing over the details of the music. This usually does not accomplish anything and only works the student into a panic.
The day of the recital is too late to make any significant changes to the way the music will be played, so if there are mistakes that have not been fixed at this point, let them slide.
Try to keep your child’s eating and sleeping routine as normal as possible on the recital day.
Nervous energy can often make kids irritable. Sometimes kids report having a stomach ache before performing. They may not realize that it’s just nervousness and it will subside if they stay focused with positive thoughts.
Build your student up with a lot of encouraging words. Remind them that they are really confident and will do a great job. Help them to see the finish line. Thinking about how awesome it will feel to walk off the stage and get high-fives from family members is a great place to direct their thoughts. My students love daydreaming about the cookies and treats they will eat when the recital is over.
At The Recital
Show up to the recital at the time your teacher requested. This might not seem like a big deal to parents, but from a teachers perspective it makes a big difference. Showing up too early isn’t a good idea because students usually end up having a lot of restless energy and nothing to do with it. If you think you’ll have time to wait around, run an errand, stop at the gas station, or take walk near the recital venue.
On the other hand, if your prone to running late, make a point to show up at the recital a few minutes early.
Unless your teacher needs you there at a specific time or for a specific reason, I recommend arriving about 10 minutes early. This will let you find a seat, meet up with other family members that might be coming and to get situated before the recital begins.
Walking in late can really set a student up for an uncomfortable experience. They may miss out on some beginning logistical announcements or they may not have a good sense of where their turn in the program is. Plus, it can be really disruptive to the other performers.
While other students perform, make sure your family is following good recital etiquette. Don’t create any noises or distractions while other students are playing. If you need to leave your seat for any reason, do so in between performances, not during a performance. If you need to slip out with a young child, do so discretely.
Avoid using flash photography while students are performing. Most parents enjoy taking videos of their children performing, but you might consider putting the camera down and just enjoying the show. Sometimes cameras can feel really distracting to kids during their big moment. You can always make videos to share after the recital when things are calmer.
After The Recital
No matter how your student performed at the recital, shower them with positive words when it’s over. Tell them how proud you are of them, that you can tell they put forth their best effort, that their music made you feel happy.
If your student nailed their performance, make a big deal about it and really build them up. This is what will propel your student to keep trying and to continue being successful with the piano.
If any problems came up during the performance, this is not the time to address them. Focus on the positive parts of the experience. Your kid just did something that most adults are scared to do. Focus on what a big deal that is and don’t worry about trying to fix things.
However, there is nothing to be learned if we don’t acknowledge our mistakes. If you noticed areas where your student could have improved, bring them up at the next piano lesson, or chat with your student about them in a productive way at some point in the future.
Making a student feel like they are in trouble for making mistakes at a recital is not a helpful solution, so keep the conversation positive and encouraging.
Plan to do something special after the recital to celebrate your student’s hard work. Go out to dinner, plan an ice cream outing, let them unwind with the favorite show or video game when they get home. Find something that makes your student feel special and encouraged.
One last take away for parents on recitals: your attitude and feelings about a recital will probably rub off on your student.
As adults, we know how nerve-wracking it can be to go in front of a crowd to do something. Don’t project your own fears on to your child.
Some kids do feel scared about performing but many kids are fearless in situations that seem daunting to an adult.
Focus your energy and words on positive thoughts. Help your student to feel confident. Focus on the fun experience – that you’ll see friends and family members there, that people will feel happy hearing live music from talented kids, that it will be fun to see what other kids can play, that it will feel so exciting and we can celebrate when it’s over.
And of course, if you have any concerns at all, talk to your teacher. It’s our job to make recitals be a great experience for everyone!
My favorite resources for parents who have always wanted to play piano:
Beginning Piano For Adults: This an 8 week online course for busy adults. It’s easy to incorporate into busy schedules and gives you access to a real piano teacher and a supportive online community.
Flowkey: Is an excellent piano tutorial app. It has over 1000 songs of all levels and styles. It includes beginners courses for adults starting from scratch.
Returning To The Piano: This is my favorite book for adults who already know a little piano and would like to continue learning more.