My end of year piano recital is looming… and I say looming because it is a significant event. We’ll have well over 200 students performing in 4 different recitals. And while Piano Recital Day (and I capitalize it because it has massive significance in my life!) used to send me into spasms of stress, I actually find myself looking forward to the event at this point in my career. I look forward to it because over the past 15 years I have perfected the art of recital hosting. And, being an overachiever, I enjoy showing my “stuff”. It’s like taking a multiple choice test when you know all the answers. Excuse me. My inner geek is showing.
The Art of the Piano Recital
The definition of art is “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination”. Creating a successful piano recital is truly an art form. And if you hone your skills like an artist, your piano recitals will become an opportunity to really solidify your student retention rates. And while many of the points I may make below may seem trivial to you… when combined, they weave together to produce a fantastically well-thought out masterpiece of studio marketing. Here’s how:
The Run Down on How to Make it Happen…
1. Remember everyone’s name and make a point of greeting everyone using their name. Remember Grandma, Aunties, Siblings and Cousins. If you are someone who isn’t great with names, work on this. It makes a huge difference. Use their first names every time you speak with them. Treat them all as if you see them regularly and are good friends. If you have a large piano studio this makes even more of a difference.
2. Speak to every one of your piano students one-on-one before the recital begins. Visit them in their chair as they wait. Get down to their level and have a quick and upbeat pep talk with lots of encouraging words. Don’t assume they’re okay just because they appear to be confident. Treat each as though they are your most nervous student.
3. Scan the crowd as the recital happens. Be on the look-out for piano students who are looking anxious. Be by their side before their turn with a comforting word. Never force a student to perform who panics at the last moment and refuses to go up. BUT…do check back in with them later on to see if they’ve changed their mind and want to try again.
4. Avoid awkward moments at the piano at all costs. Be ready to leap into action to save your student with a quick bit of help on stage, and then remain there as a comforting presence. I crouch beside out of the way, but close enough to give them confidence. Seconds seem like hours when you’re the one on the bench with no idea what note to play next. Seconds seem like hours when you’re the parent watching your child struggle. Don’t leave them hanging. Ever.
5. Start the clap. Be the one to begin the clapping after each piano performance. It sounds silly, but if you begin the clapping enthusiastically (I stand at the back) others will follow suit. It makes a difference to the overall feel of your piano recital.
6. Prepare the next student with your eyes. While the current piano student is playing, catch the attention of the student who is next and give them an encouraging smile and an indication that they indeed are next. Children often don’t follow a printed program well, and if you catch them off guard by calling their name you risk having their jolt of adrenaline affect their performance. Give them warning and encouragement.
7. Remember specific things each student did well during their piano performance. As they leave, get down to their eye level and tell them what you appreciated about their performance.
8. Consider handing out personalized awards. Simple certificates handed out in categories such as “Amazing Practice Habits”, “Musicality”, “Composing” etc. mean a lot to a child (and a parent). But, don’t hand out awards if you are not going to include everyone. This backfires majorly if you leave some piano students out.
9. Make a point of spending time with each family grouping after the piano recital. I suggest having refreshments afterwards to enable you to have a small amount of time with everyone. During each conversation tell them three things that make their child a valued piano student at your studio.
10. Be sure to warmly welcome your guests with an opening (short) speech. Talk about how fortunate you are to work with their children each and every week, talk about how you hope that music has had a positive impact on their family life at home, etc. etc. Showcase one thing your piano studio has done that year that is especially impressive (one year I counted the number of completed pieces and added them up to a “grand total” that sounded quite impressive). At the end, make sure to give your students something to look forward to when piano lessons resume. Hint at a new studio event, an incentive, a goal, an exciting plan. Give them something to look forward to.
These few simple things are easily forgotten in the hectic atmosphere of a recital. However, if you are able to step back and focus in on what really matters you have the ability to use your piano studio recital as a great student-retention tool. By making each and every child and family feel valued and supported you are creating connections and relationships that will be long-lasting.
Can you add to this list? We’d love for you to share your tips in the comments below.