The other day an Instagram post from a piano teacher popped into my feed and left me speechless. It showcased a recital that is the most amazingly awesome studio event I have ever seen. In my excitement I messaged the teacher immediately, asking “Will you share this with our readers?!”, to which she enthusiastically responded, “Of course!”.
Meet Cammie Titus; a piano teacher from Utah who did something truly incredible with her spring piano recital this year. As a result, her piano students practiced more, her piano families begged for this to become an annual event and people in her community sat up and took notice of her studio. What made it so awesome? For starters, take a look at the video below…
What A Way To Start A Piano Recital!
There’s cheering, cow bells, air horns and yes, even a “bust-through” banner stating “PIANO ROCKS!” Cammie had read our post titled, “Why My Next Piano Recital May Include Hot Dogs, Foam Fingers And ‘The Wave’. In this post we asked the question: “How can piano teachers harness the enthusiasm and feedback that kids get when they play sports and transfer it to piano lessons?”
Cammie faced this challenge head-on, ran with the idea of creating a “Piano Fan Environment”, and turned her spring recital into an experience her students will never forget! Read on as she explains how and why she turned her recital on its head.
A “Piano Fan” Recital – One Teacher’s Story
When chatting with Cammie about her spring recital, we knew that other teachers would want to know how and why she created this event. We asked her if she would be wiling to share the “nitty gritty” of planning her recital. Here’s our interview with Cammie:
What inspired you to hold a “Piano Fan” Recital?
Really, it was your article titled, “Why My Next Piano Recital May Include Hot Dogs, Foam Fingers and the Wave”. I read that blog post and it hit me like a ton of bricks! I have children who also participate in sports, so I really could relate to what I was reading. After finishing the article, I knew I had to do something exciting for my spring recital – and your blog post was the catalyst! Some of the ideas from the article, just really got my mind moving in a major way and our “Spring Musical Celebration” was born!
How did you communicate this variation on a “normal recital” to parents and students?
I composed an email to my piano families and included a link to your article so that they could feel the spirit of what I was trying to accomplish. I wanted the weeks leading up to the recital to set the tone for the final performance. I outlined what I hoped our next recital would FEEL like. I wanted excitement, I wanted a real sense of pride, and I wanted every single student to feel like they had scored the winning touchdown – from the piano bench. 🙂
I hoped that each family would take inspiration from the article and really apply it in their homes. Within minutes of sending the email, I got feedback from several parents who had read the article. They seemed just as excited as I was to change the tone around daily practice and started to get excited about helping to prepare their children for future performances in a little bit of a different way.
What was your students’ reaction to your new take on a piano recital?
I did not entirely tell my students what was going on. I wanted it to be a bit of a surprise and celebration for them and their accomplishments. I did tell them that our recital would be quite different than any of the others they had played in and made sure they knew that they could wear anything they wanted! They were excited to not have to dress up, some of their reactions were so funny! Several students looked at me in disbelief when I told them that they could even wear shorts and a t-shirt to the recital – GASP! I think they were excited about the recital for that reason on its own.
Explain your recital to us – how did you create a “Piano Fan” Environment?
This recital was held in my backyard, thank goodness the weather cooperated! It turned out lovely for both recitals! I encouraged my piano families to bring noise makers of any kind… pom-poms, foam fingers, and homemade signs. I told them to paint their faces with their family initials, wear their old cheerleading uniforms (haha) and anything else they wanted that would create an exciting environment for our recital. I had one family show up that had made “Team Keyes” t-shirts for their whole family. I loved it!!
Families showed up with air horns, trumpets, and many other kinds of noise makers. I also had some extra cow bells etc. on hand just in case. I gave a little pep talk and we practiced our cheering right at the beginning of the recital to help set the tone. After corralling my students on the patio, and a “Let’s get ready to rumble!” shout, the students ran through the “Piano Rocks” sign and out onto the lawn. It was a fun way to start the recital, and definitely a departure from any recital they had ever experienced before!
Each family brought their own camping chairs to sit on, and some brought blankets for the kids – we just spread out on the lawn. It was casual and fun. Instead of serving refreshments after the recital, I served Cracker Jacks, licorice ropes, packets of sunflower seeds, and cans of soda during the recital. The treats were a HUGE hit! Several adults commented that they loved having something to snack on while the kids played.
What kind of planning and set-up did this kind of recital require?
Not a whole lot more than a regular recital. I normally have my studio recitals in my home – so that requires moving some furniture around and setting up chairs. I usually have some kind of refreshments and, of course, programs as well. For the Spring Musical Celebration, I had refreshments, and a program to make, but no chairs to set up since I had everyone bring their own chairs this time around. I did have to take two digital pianos into my backyard for some ensembles that were to be performed. I had two separate recitals, so I made two giant signs on butcher paper that said “Piano Rocks!”. But, really, it was not a lot more work than any of the other recitals I have done in the past.
What kind of feedback did you receive after this recital?
At home, leading up to the recital, I asked my families to cheer their students practice on, in really sincere ways, and I had almost immediate feedback that new attitudes were being formed on the piano bench. How exciting is that!?!? I had piano families that were figuring out that practice could be fun and something to cheer for.
I have never had a recital that my piano families were more excited about. Parents, grandparents, siblings and many students commented that this was, by far, their favorite recital. I had many families ask me to make this a tradition, which is amazing, because who needs one more thing to do in the month of May? I even had siblings of students that asked to take piano lessons after seeing the fun that we had at the recital. It was a great success – and I am planning on making it a yearly event. I cannot wait to see what new things my piano families will come up with in future years!
What benefits did you observe from hosting a piano recital like this one?
The general excitement and energy from this recital really carried over into lessons in the following weeks. It was a great way to gain some momentum going into the end of the school year when students can get a little lazy in their practice.
Also, this recital definitely created a buzz in the community! I have had comments from people at church and the grocery store who had heard about the unconventional way that I celebrated my students this spring. As piano teachers, we can all use a little more recognition in the community!
Having planned this yourself, what are some tips you would share with piano teachers who might want to try this?
Go for it! This was such a great experience for me and my students that I really can’t wait to do it again. Try not to take yourself or your students too seriously. I loved it when students hammed up their performances with costumes, and silly end-of-performance bows. The audience ate it right up!
Thinking Outside The Box…
Incredible, right?! Thank you so much to Cammie for sharing her enthusiastic approach to piano recitals! What do you think about this idea of holding “Piano Fan” recitals? Share in the comments below.
Have you done something incredible at your studio lately that you would love to share with our readers? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and you could be featured in an upcoming post!
You can follow Cammie on Instagram at @cammielouteachespiano