I fully admit that I used to never do Christmas baking because a lovely piano parent would gift me an entire box of her carefully-crafted kitchen creations. Did I pass it off as my own? Perhaps. Okay I totally did.
But I have an excuse… Christmas baking is something that most people do in late November and early December… and this just so happens to be the BUSIEST time for piano teachers… it’s right smack in the midst of recital season! Who has time for baking when it’s recital season… or breathing…?
However, my piano student just graduated and this meant that my sneaky baking trick disappeared. I had to learn to hit the kitchen on my own… and this meant that there were some serious time-saving measures I had to start doing to make it through recital season.
There are many life lessons you can learn while baking… even about teaching piano… so here’s our 6 Christmas Piano Recital Tips from a Gingerbread Man:
1. Don’t Lose Your Head
Choose your piano recital date wisely. I always opt for earlier than later when it comes to the month of December. Piano recitals and last-minute Christmas shopping don’t mix and you’ll risk losing participants to the multitude of other events and tasks people take on at this time of year. Stay away from the last two weeks before school gets out and plan your recital day with family life in mind. If you have a small studio, you want as many students as you can to attend, so pick a date that has the highest chance for success. You’ll do yourself a favor too if you choose a date that is not close to Christmas Crazy Town.
2. Start Early… Stock Your Freezer
Now that you’ve chosen a date, send out your announcement tomorrow. Families appreciate the massive amounts of notice. You’ll appreciate feeling uber-organized. Start choosing recital material with your students this coming week. Give your students ample time to polish their performance pieces to ensure a positive experience. As the days grow shorter and the flu bug grows stronger you’ll appreciate having a studio full of well-prepared students. It’s as good as a freezer full of cookies.
3. Gingerbread Is Delish… But There Are Other Treats On The Tray
I’m a big proponent of teaching piano students Christmas music that goes beyond Frosty, Rudolph and Jingle Bells. And while I certainly do let my students learn to play Jingle Bells, my studio has a Jingle Bells Lottery to decide who gets to play this piece on the recital day (or I inevitably end up with 14 renditions). It’s the only fair way to do it, and I like to encourage students to explore music other than Jingle Bells. Have you noticed that children today are not familiar with many of the non-commercial Christmas carols?! I’m on a mission to fix this… join me! 🙂
Nobody likes to hear the same old method book songs over and over again every recital either! For some unique, fresh and exciting supplementary repertoire that’s perfect for recitals check out PianoBookClub!
4. Keep It Short(bread) And Sweet
Recitals should never last more than 45 min to 1 hour. If you have a large studio consider splitting it into two (or more!) recitals. Include student duets to decrease the number of performances and choose one really great selection per student instead of several. By keeping your recitals short and sweet you will encourage future participation on the part of both your students and their families.
5. Tuck Some Aside For Unexpected Company
Just because your students are only performing one selection at your recital doesn’t mean they should only learn one piece. Create a mini-recital list for each student so they can play over the holiday for friends and family who visit. Polish these pieces as much as you do their main performance pieces. Use the motivation of the recital date to encourage practice among a variety of pieces, not just one. Recitals are a learning experience… so use them to their full potential in the preparation weeks.
6. Always Sample Copious Amounts As You Go
Use Christmas music as sight-reading practice during these next two months. By exposing your students to a wide sampling of the music of the season you are building their repertoire knowledge while they work on their sight-reading skills. There’s nothing worse than playing the same piano piece for 6 weeks. Shake it up with sight-reading, lead sheets, chording… all things you can easily do with Christmas Carols.
And so with these 6 tips in mind, think like a Gingerbread Man and ease into your Christmas holidays with a recital that is merry and bright…. and that doesn’t leave you gulping down a stiff eggnog behind your tree.