7 Ways To Make Piano Recitals More Interesting

Piano Concert moment

Unfortunately, many people have negative memories centered around piano recitals. This can make it difficult to persuade Uncle Joe to come to hear little Susie play her piano piece at the annual recital. It can also make it hard to persuade little Susie’s mom and dad to stay for the entire recital. Even the fear of future negative memories centered around piano recitals can make it almost impossible to get little Susie to agree to play in the piano recital. So, what’s a piano teacher to do?

Here are 7 ways to make sure Uncle Joe, Susie, her mom, and her dad not only attend the recital, but thoroughly enjoy it as well!

1. Give your recital a “cool” upgrade and call it a CONCERT instead.

Let’s face it – most people associate the word recital with boredom. How many people do you know who are telling their friends they can’t wait for the next recital? On the other hand, how many people are proud to announce that they have tickets to see their favorite artist in concert? I’m just saying…

2. Allow students to play more than one song and put one song at the beginning of the concert and the other later in the program.

This will work especially well if the pieces your students play are short. Be sure to keep concerts no longer than about 90 minutes at the most.

3. Highlight other talents your students have.

If you have a student who loves to sing, have her sing while playing.

4. Encourage students to collaborate.

Have one student play the piano while another student sings.

5. Promote interaction with the audience.

In the picture above, a student and I get the audience to chant the main phrase of the song we had just performed as a duet.

6. Invite other artists to be special guests at your concert.

Dancers, singers, poets, and instrumentalists who play something other than the piano are good choices. It gives the audience a break from piano music, gives you time to get kids ready for whatever comes next, and exposes your students to the other performing arts.

7. Consider having parents and students collaborate.

You may have parents who sing, act, dance, etc. Ask them to accompany one of your students as they play the piano. This works really well when you pair parents up with kids other than their own.

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Non-Traditional Performance Opportunities

One of my goals in teaching piano is to help my students integrate music making with everyday life. When students realize that they can play their instrument for more than just an annual recital or formal concert, lessons become more meaningful. More meaningful lessons means more dedicated students!

As music educators we realize that music is everywhere. Our students, however, may not be consciously aware of this fact. It is up to us to help them notice music that is in their everyday lives. One way we can do this is to seek out non-traditional performance opportunities for our students. One of the best ways to do this is to consider the other activities in which the students participate. For instance, I have several piano students who are also studying dance. Dance classes are perfect performance opportunities for piano players! Who says dancers have to use pre-recorded music?

The picture above shows one of my students (in this instance, my daughter) accompanying at a dance class. This was a great opportunity to gain experience working with other kids in the arts. The fact that the dancers were friends of hers was also very encouraging and it made it seem more like “play” than performance or practice. (Isn’t that what music making should be?)

From a piano pedagogy standpoint, the piano student who accompanies dance classes can gain a deeper understanding of rhythm and the need to keep a steady beat. Watching and being aware of the dancers’ movements also helps the student feel the pulse of the music. What about helping with expression? Yes, of course! Having someone dance to the music as a student plays can help the student play more expressively and improves phrasing. These things are possible because suddenly the music has a purpose beyond the physical acts involved in playing the instrument.

An added bonus for this non-traditional performance opportunity is the student’s interaction with the dance instructor. In this type of situation the student must be able to receive direction from a teacher other than the piano teacher. This is so important for helping the student broaden his or her idea of what it means to take piano lessons. Sometimes students place their lessons in a box where they only use their skills for their piano teacher. Playing for a teacher in a different area of the arts forces the student to become the expert concerning the music they are playing. They must use the knowledge that they have about their instrument and apply to what the dance teacher is asking them to do. This translates into higher levels of confidence which of course makes better performances possible.

Finally, an added benefit of this non-traditional performance opportunity was that some of the dancers became interested in playing the piano!

If you teach music or have a child who takes dance classes, I would highly recommend you speak with a dance teacher in your area about the possibility of your students accompanying for the dance class. Accompanying for the warm up section of the dance class can be a great way to start.

What are some other non-traditional performance opportunities that you offer your students?

Piano Photo Contest Entries: You Decide!

To celebrate completing the first month of piano lessons for this school year, I held a piano photo contest for students and families in the studio. Below you can see all the entries. Please vote for your favorite picture. The owner of the winning picture will receive a $10 Amazon gift card!

Our First Piano Graduation of the School Year

Yesterday I had my first student of this school year to graduate from her piano level. She just completed Faber’s My First Piano Adventures Level A! To celebrate the momentous occasion I taped the FINISH LINE pictured above from the piano to the wall. When she finished the last piece and a set of review questions, the student got to run across the finish line!   Of course that was very exciting for her and I must admit it was for me too! Now to really make sure that she understood just how big of an accomplishment completing her piano level was, I presented her with some gifts as well. She received a My First Piano Adventures Level A Christmas Book, A gift wrapped Wind Chime, and a bag of goodies! To top it all off and to create excitement among my other students and parents, I will be sending out a group e-mail to share the news with everyone. How do you celebrate piano graduations in your studio? I’d love to hear about it, so leave a comment if you’d like!

Capture Students’ Attention BEFORE They Enter The Door

 

Imagine your student walking towards your studio, music bag in hand. She may be thinking about the super hard test she had at school today or the mountain of homework that is waiting for her to do after the piano lesson. All this can be very distracting and maybe a bit discouraging until… she makes it to your studio door and sees a welcome sign with her name on it just as she is about to enter! You can predict what will happen next – a big smile will appear on her face and she will enter the studio that much more excited about her lesson. Pictured above is the sign I put up for my students everyday during the first week of piano for the new school year. Each day I simply replaced the previous day’s names with the students for that day. OK – truth – I had my daughter do it for me!  It was definitely a hit with students and parents as well. An added benefit to this sign was having all the students for the day listed. Seeing other kids’ names lets students know that they are not the only ones taking piano lessons and that they are part of a music making community. For more about building community in your studio, see my post on how to Get Parents Geared Up For A New Piano Season.

 

Get Parents Geared Up For A New Piano Season!

 

With the start of a new school year we usually focus on getting students geared up for a new piano season, but have you ever considered having a special kick off event just for parents? Part of my teaching philosophy is that the music studio should be a community of families who are committed to arts education. So, this year in addition to our normal events that involve students and their families I decided to have a Piano Parent Mtg. the week before lessons began.

This gave new and returning parents an opportunity to meet each other, ask questions, and share piano stories. I had a chance to give out helpful information for the year concerning upcoming event dates, fees, curriculum and all the things that we’d be doing in the studio this year.

We even had a chance to do some role plays about practicing at home. The parents seemed to really enjoy getting different ideas on how to handle practice issues at home.

And what would an event be without food? So of course we had refreshments. We even had door prizes for some products that were donated by local merchants as well as a drawing for FREE registration.

The evening went very well, and so far I’ve heard from more than one parent that their child was a little upset about not being invited to the meeting! What can I say, us parents deserve a little time with our friends too, right? Next year I’m going to call a Piano Parent Gathering instead of meeting.

How do you get parents geared up for the start of the new school year? I’d love to hear about it!

 

Pinterest Idea of the Week: New Uses for Old Sheet Music

Source: goawaycomeback.tumblr.com via Dana on Pinterest

It’s amazing how much sheet music can pile up after 30+ years of playing the piano! Not only do I have music that I have purchased, but over the years I have been blessed by many of my elderly friends with their sheet music collections. Most of this music is very much out of date and I will never be able to use it – so I thought until now. I will be using this idea that I found on Pinterest the next time I give out gifts in my studio! I think it’s a great way to honor the memories of my dear friends AND clean out my studio at the same time.

What do you do with old sheet music?

Giant Music Mat

After a Google search for a rug for my group music classroom only turned up results over $150, I decided to make my own. Actually it is a giant mat made out of foam tiles that I purchased from Wal Mart at $5.97 per set of 9. I bought 5 sets. The picture above shows a smaller version of my Giant Music Mat.

To make your own here is what you need:

5 or more sets of foam tiles (depends on the size you want)

a black marker

Directions:

Choose tiles of the same color and arrange them in a square shape

Create a border for the square you’ve made using tiles of different colors. Alternate colors.

Use a black marker to draw a different music symbol on each of the border tiles.

If you plan to use your giant mat to designate where each child should sit during group class, it is important to draw a DIFFERENT music symbol on each tile. Do not repeat symbols.

There are so many ways you can use this mat besides just sitting! As I already stated, it can be used to assign seats. This shortens the time it takes to get kids situated and ready for class to begin. At the beginning of the year or session, assign a unique symbol to each child. This will be their spot. Make sure they know the name of their symbol and what it means. You could even have kids act out the meaning. At a parent presentation, kids could “show and tell” using their symbol. Have them hold up their tile while presenting it.

What other ways can you think of for using the Giant Music Mat?