It’s Student Recital Time !!
This phrase brings joy to some and panic to others. Performance is a very personal experience. You can enjoy performing on one instrument but not another; enjoy performing in a group but not a solo. It can be a little intimidating to perform and much worse if you do not feel you are prepared. Preparing takes a lot of time and even the thoroughly prepared performer can make a mistake. You have to have a tough spirit. If you make a mistake you have to keep going, have a good poker face and keep concentrating.
I am not a big fan of the high-pressure kid piano recital. I prefer to take baby steps on this one. Here are the steps I use and suggest.
1. Pick a piece – it should be one you really like because you have to play it a lot. Make sure it is not too, too hard. A stretch is good but you should be comfortable that you can be successful. Sometimes kids pick a piece they can “mostly” play but it has a section that is very difficult. If you are going to do this, work very hard on the difficult section. It will not magically improve, and if you do not master it, most likely it will stump you on recital day.
2. Practice, practice, practice – play your piece in small chunks, start in all different place just in case you make a mistake and get confused. Practice it in total – if the piece is long, it is easy to lose your concentration. Practice the most difficult parts more often.
3. Decide if you want to memorize – You do NOT have to memorize a piece. In my opinion, this is a giant trap. Truly memorizing is a complicated procedure involving skills you might not yet own. Kids memorize pieces physically – muscle memory. This means that their hands play but they have no idea what notes they are actually playing. If you make a mistake or get lost, you have no safety net and you usually need to start over from the beginning, which is dangerous because now you are nervous and the whole thing can happen again. Experienced performers who do not use music have studied the pieces and understand them on a very high intellectual, technical level. Memorizing is not necessary.
4. Have a rehearsal at home. When you perform the piece in front of others, it feels and sounds different. This can be disconcerting. Pretend it is the real thing and not a dress rehearsal. Practice the entire procedure: walk to the piano, sit down, open the book, etc.
5. Enjoy yourself – Be ready to have fun. Live in the moment and notice that people have come to hear you because they like and maybe even love you.
6. Celebrate – Have some kind of celebration after the performance and make it a tradition. Growing up, after a play, my family came home and we had ice cream sodas. After my student recitals, we have cookies, popcorn and hot cocoa and watch a musical on TV. Be satisfied with your performance. Maybe it was your best ever or maybe it was not. Either way, you performed and hopefully learned something new. Focus on the good parts.