Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.


Concert in the Works

O is for Opera

Although the planning and music selection began in December, with two weeks remaining before Lauren and my annual Spring Music Recital, preparations have definitely kicked into high gear. We are making a list and checking it twice, drawing on the experience of five years of past studio recitals, and incorporating the great methods and ideas of past instructors and fellow music teachers and friends. So here are the plans for this year's event--some new, some tradition, some borrowed, and some original.

Begin Teaching Recital Songs by February

We chose every student's piece during our winter break, and ordered all the necessary music. For many students, I tried to give at least two options so they could pick their favorite piece and be excited about investing four months into a piece. Many students learned their pieces by ear, and therefore will be performing songs well above their music-reading level (those kids have no idea what eighth notes are, but they are playing them in perfect rhythm).
Practice Maked Perfect

This also gave plenty of time to emphasize good memorization--every piece must be memorized for the recital (though there have been those times when kids are allowed to play with music, memorization is still the required standard). I like to have my students memorize each hand separately and then together--it challenges them to memorize intellectually, rather than just by muscle memory. Next year, I hope to be even more organized at starting recital pieces early, because trio pieces (we have three trios performing this year) weren't handed out until April, and a few kids had to wait until mid-February for their piece because of back-ordered music.

Pick Date Early and With Everyone's Help

We weren't so good at picking the date early (it didn't get decided until the beginning of May), and consequently one family will not be able to make it. However--one family out of 37 students is not bad. Every year, we use a Google form to poll the families for dates that work best for them. It's a wonderful way to easily figure out if our favorite date will prove impossible for half of our students. This is one of the few years that one of our students won't be able to make it; we're usually able to find a day that works for everyone.

Host a Practice Recital

One year, we had a lot of new, young students. Worried about how they would react on recital day with quivering nerves, unfamiliar acoustics, a sea of strange faces, and a different instrument (for the piano students), we organized a practice recital. It was such a success, we've continued the tradition every year, choosing a date one or two weeks before the recital at the venue where the recital will occur. We review performance techniques, point out the tape on the stage for the violinists to stand on, and run through the entire program with the just the kids. But lest the evening get too boring, we break up the performances with fun, musical games to engage the kids and get them to meet each other.

During the practice recital, kids also get to vote on their favorite music-themed artwork that has been submitted by students in the preceding weeks. The winning artwork will be printed on the front cover of the recital program!

The Big Day

A CD plays the prelude music while we hustle and bustle here and there, setting up flowers picked from our yard, making punch, tuning violins, organizing our accompaniment music, setting up a table to hold everyone's violins, decorating the food tables, and setting out music programs. Ahead of time, we asked for a loose RSVP to insure enough programs and tableware. Students arrive fifteen to twenty minutes early and hand us their music and their instruments to be tuned. Much to our delight (and some students' chagrin), everyone comes in formal, dressy attire to communicate their respect for the audience and themselves; we make it very clear ahead of time that this is not a jeans, tennis shoes, or flip flop event.

This year, we had a semester-long practice contest, so our recital will not only include 36 solo and ensemble pieces on violin or piano, but also an awards ceremony for the winners of the practice contest. Every student will additionally receive a small token of our appreciation for them. Finger food refreshment afterwards is a wonderful time for the students to mingle and revel in the joys of a job well done. We supply musical cutout cookies, punch, and table service, and everyone else contributes a finger food for a fun completion to a wonderful evening!

Are you hosting or attending a music recital this year? What are some of your favorite ideas for pulling these events off? I'd love to hear in the comments!

For a wealth of information on recitals and all things piano pedagogy, visit Music Matters, one of my favorite music blogs.

Our 2009 Recital

Our 2011 Recital

Picture Credits:
#1: darkmatter
#2: Colton Witt Photography
#3: christing-O-


  1. How exciting!! I know all your well-laid plans and great ideas will be fantastic. God bless! Love, Johanna

  2. Oh thanks Johanna! I'm excited too for the fulfillment of the plans. (Though I also know from experience that not everything will go as planned! ;-)

  3. This sounds amazing! I love all the extra details and fun ideas you put into it, like having the students vote on whose artwork should go on the cover of the program. Mind if I steal a few of your ideas for my own recitals?


  4. Thanks Melody! Of course, I absolutely do not mind if you use these ideas--that's why I put them up! And I'd love to hear any ideas of your own that work well for you. Collaboration and sharing is a wonderful (but often neglected) part of music teaching!

  5. Speaking of collaboration and sharing, Mikaela, is there a way to contact you privately? [email?] I have a question or two (music-teaching related) that I believe you may be able to help me with, but I feel like it would be too long/in-depth to explain in a comment.


  6. Hey there K!

    I'd be happy to try to help! The best way to do this is for you to comment back with your email address. I pinky promise I won't publish your comment--I'll email you when I get a chance and delete the comment.

    Looking forward to hearing from you!

  7. Wow, it sounds like it will be a fantastic concert/recital! Your planning and attention to detail are amazing, which I am sure come from experience under your belt, but also a natural talent for such occasions. I hope all goes well! :)

  8. Ruthie--I don't know about "amazing," but the planning is certainly born out of necessity from many glitches in the past. ;) And, as you know, Mama is fabulous at events, so I've had the benefit of watching and learning from her over the years.


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