Performing is such a huge part of music – we want to share what we love about the songs we play, to show off our skills, and to have something to show for our hard work and dedication to our instrument. So having to perform for others should be an exciting and fun experience.
But when someone throws out the word “recital”, people tend to shudder. I found many parents sharing stories of having to walk onto large stages alone, feeling nervous prior to playing, and being upset afterwards because they had made mistakes. It really made me think about the stereotypical traditional recital experience. How can we prepare students for performing in a holistic, child-centric way?
The first step in playing for others is to be comfortable playing in front of peers (preferably, friends.) To that end, I invited my piano students over at the end of the spring for a Piano Party. Many of the students had not played in front of anyone besides their parents. Since this would be such a new experience, I tried to keep everything as familiar as possible, including squeezing 15 kids (and some parents) into my apartment where we have lessons. The children were allowed to pick any song they wanted to play, and we pulled names out of a basket to see who would play next. There were still some children who were very nervous, but we also got to talk as a group about the performance experience, and how to act as a performer and as an audience member. This was so much easier to do in my living room than in a large unfamiliar space!
I was so proud of everyone, and it made me more determined than ever to make performing an integral part of our learning experience. My grand plan for the coming year will be a few more piano parties throughout the year, culminating in an actual spring recital. My hope is that my students will come to see performing as joyful and exhilarating, and will look forward to hearing what others are working on and sharing their own learning with their friends and family.