Have you ever wondered why there are so many recitals at performing arts academies? I sure have and I schedule them. I have never met anyone who woke up saying “I want to go listen to some random 5-year-olds play piano for an hour (or more)”. And yet we have recitals, and then more recitals.
Well, it’s a little about the audience and I’ll get to that in a bit. The first and most obvious reason is that the students are studying a Performing Art. They can practice their skills all day every day, but without other people, they can’t fully practice performing. There is something magical about being in front of a group of people; well now I think it’s magical, most beginning and intermediate students would probably choose the word terrifying. We live in a world of second chances, you didn’t get it right the first time go ahead and try again. That isn’t an option in a recital, yes they will get to try again at the next recital, but today it’s now or never. Now, all of this pressure is of course imaginary, everyone is going to make mistakes, that’s why we practice performing.
I had an instructor that started every student recital by reminding the students and the audience how important the next hour and a half was going to be for every student performing. And then he would continue to challenge the students to perform their best and above all else tell the best story they could. I haven’t heard him give that speech in almost ten years now and the message still rings true every time I think about it. Students come to recitals at all different skill levels and some are practicing getting on the stage and plucking out their notes and rhythms without the nerves causing them to cry. Others are working on taking their performance to the next level. Learning how to tell a story to the audience through the music, dance, or play they are performing. I can’t possibly explain how hard it is to move (or not move) on stage in a way that doesn’t look like you want to run off stage.
Despite what every student has ever thought about participating in a recital there is no such thing as failure. All that exists is a series of moments that we can learn from. Some of those moments feel better than others. Recitals give students the chance to experience the feelings of success, frustration, joy, pride, etc. in a safe space. During some of our recitals, we have had students play songs with their fingers completely on the wrong notes, with their music upside down, skip sections, repeat sections, everything you can imagine, and we have had students give some of the best performances they have ever done. What is amazing is no matter what the student will receive the applause and appreciation of the other students, the teachers, and the audience.
Learning a performing art is a long time commitment; years, decades, lifetimes, eternity practicing. It is challenging to maintain the drive to keep working hard. Frequent recitals push students to prepare new repertoire at a faster pace.
I told you that it is partly about the audience, this is where you come in. Life is busy. Students participating in recitals have been working hard to learn their craft. And while the praise and applause from strangers is super cool it doesn’t have the same impact as from friends and family. That moment is what can recharge a student to pursue new and more challenging repertoire for next time. Make it a point to get as much of the family as possible to every recital.