I grew up with very formal piano recitals. Boys wore suits; girls wore dresses. All pieces were memorized. We performed in a “big” recital hall (at least it seemed big at the time). There was a dress rehearsal. It was all very stressful.
I prefer to offer students more opportunities to perform in less stressful situations. Firstly, children are strongly encouraged to perform for friends and family. This can be as simple as having everyone sit down after dinner or at a family gathering and listen to the student play one piece or ten – all the student’s choice. Children are rewarded at the very next lesson and we celebrate their performance.
For the studio as a whole, there are several opportunities throughout the year for students to perform. In the fall we have a Fall Festival and a Christmas concert. The Fall Festival is in conjunction with the local music teachers’ guild and typically takes place at Billings Clinic cafeteria. Children share their favorite songs at a concert in December, followed by cake. Sometimes we have a theme (in 2016 it was the “Nutcracker”), but students can always choose their performance pieces. Additionally, students have an opportunity to join me in playing at the Billings Clinic downtown during the Christmas season. In February the local teachers’ guild hosts an adjudicated Sonatina festival, and I encourage many students to participate in that event. In the spring we visit St. John’s Retirement Home in March, then join together for a final concert in May. Students who are members of Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd often perform at the Sunday School spaghetti dinner in April, and older students are encouraged to play at the District Music Festival.
I believe that by providing less stressful performance opportunities, children are more likely to be successful and therefore more likely to perform again. And, when they have more input in selecting what they play, students will be more enthusiastic about performing, seeing it as an opportunity to show off what they can do instead of a “necessary evil” of taking lessons. With virtually complete control over whether or not they perform and what pieces they play, children work hard to do their best. Performing becomes a positive experience to enjoy, and their success in doing so builds self-esteem and self-confidence.