Ignorance is bliss. When you’re a young piano student, you have no idea that playing in piano recitals can be stressful. I am always amazed by the five-year-olds at my studio who hop on stage as though they’re still in their PJ’s in their living room and play through their piece without breaking a sweat. Teens, unfortunately, don’t enjoy this same ability to turn a blind eye to the hundreds of eyes watching them. Couple this heightened self-consciousness with the ability (or the desire!) to assert themselves and you often end up with teenage students who bow out of piano recitals all together no matter how hard you try.
Making Piano Recitals More Appealing to Teenagers
As piano teachers, we know that performance experience is of paramount importance. Without performances it is difficult to be motivated to really polish your piano repertoire. Without goals it’s difficult to be motivated to practice. And while you’ll likely still be faced with a few “mysterious” and last-minute illnesses the day of the recital amongst your teen population, try some of these suggestions to make the piano recital experience more appealing to your teenage piano students:
1. Don’t be lame – If you have a sizeable teenage student population, then plan a separate piano recital to be a “teens only” event. Teens often do not want to be lumped in with young children, so separate your recital into age groups and treat each group accordingly. You don’t need cute programs and colorful certificates for this age group, but your little ones still love them! By dividing your recital into two age groups you’ll banish some of the reluctance.
2. Hold your teen piano recital in a cool venue – Make the recital seem more like a gig and your teens will be more likely to invite their friends (think coffee shop or open mic venue). Friends are of utmost importance to teens, so if you can hook into their desire to be with their buddies you’ll be much more likely to have good participation. Consider allowing their friends to perform on the instruments they themselves may play to encourage a collaborative atmosphere.
3. Include some technology – Teens are cyber-crazy creatures these days. Put your program on a projector, live stream the recital over the internet (watch copyright laws here), videotape their piano performances and post to Facebook for sharing and/or create a studio youtube channel and fill it with your teens’ performances. Add a “best phone photo” contest to the recital and give a prize to the person with the best photo of a performer taken with their cell phone. It’s all about relevancy.
4. Consider having a themed piano recital – Think “Music of U2”, “Beatles Night”, “Video Game Music” etc. Not only will this be fun for the audience, but for your teens as well. If your students are performing music they view as “cool” they will be less self-conscious about performing.
5. Create opportunities for your teen piano students to meet before the recital – Host some mini-master classes for your teens so they can get to know each other and create some friendships with those who have similar interests. There’s strength in numbers and they’ll be more likely to be comfortable performing for peers they know.
6. Serve food – Entice those teen boys with a pizza reception afterwards, or “make your own sundae” or “Nutella crepes”…be creative 🙂
7. Create opportunities for collaboration – Encourage duet pairings for your recitals. Teens are social creatures and they’ll love the idea of having someone to “lean on” on stage.
I have never been a believer in making performances mandatory. Some students are absolutely mortified at the very thought of performing… and forcing them to perform takes away the joy that piano can provide at a time in their life when they need an emotional outlet the most. However, with enough ingenuity you can create a setting that will have your teenage piano students begging for the next recital.
One way to ensure your teens are enthused about recital participation is by giving them repertoire they love. Our PianoBookClub teen books are so popular teens are literally begging for more! Check out how you can get infinitely reproducible books of repertoire for just $8 here.