9 Lessons-Learned From My First Zoom Recital

Well, this is a post I never expected to see myself writing! LOL.

Over the past two months, studio teachers from all over the world have taken the plunge into unknown territory

Here are  7 things that I learned from our first Zoom recital. I hope this will make your recital a little easier!


#1 Do a practice run

For our in-person recitals, we always do a rehearsal the day before. I’m glad I didn’t let the online format change this norm.

Holding a practice recital the week prior gives students, parents, and ourselves a chance to know what to expect. Even more importantly, it allows you to practice “managing” the recital online.

Definitely plan on requiring a parent to attend the rehearsal so they can practice holding the device and we could pick the best location. This will avoid you having to give instructions during the recital like “move a little further back”, or “turn your camera sideways” or “no, no, that’s too close – we want to see their hands!”

The practice run will make everyone feel much more relaxed going into it recital day!


#2 Send an Invitation Email

Send families an email at least a week ahead of time that is specifically for them to forward on to family and friends. Here is mine. Feel free to use it or any portion of it as needed.

Hi, studio families,
Do you want to invite someone to your student’s virtual recital on Sunday? Grandparents? Friends? Aunts and Uncles? Family on the other side of the world? You can do so by forwarding this email. (Please read all the details yourself as well).
P.S. Please let me know who you expect to attend so I have an idea of how many people I need to admit into the recital.
YOU’RE INVITED:  Studio 88 Virtual “Mini” Recital (via Zoom)
You’re invited to a “mini recital” put on by students of Studio 88 Piano Lessons in Bluffton, Indiana. Generally, this is a full-studio recital held at a church but in order to adhere to current state guidelines for social distancing, we have decided to go virtual. Luckily, that means you can still attend!
Each recital will consist of 5-6 students performing and will last approximately 30 minutes.
While we are excited we have a way to invite family and friends to our recital, there are several things that you need to know as a virtual attendee:
At least a day before:  Download “Zoom Cloud Meetings” from your app store. (You do not have to create an account in order to join the meeting.)
10 minutes before the recital: Come to this email and click on this link:
It should automatically send you directly into the meeting without needing to enter the meeting ID or Password. However, if for any reason you need it, they are:
Once you enter the meeting, you will be placed in a virtual waiting room where you have to wait to be “admitted”.
Once you are admitted,  it will ask you to join audio so you can hear. That is fine. Once you join audio, however, you will automatically be placed on “mute” and WITHOUT video. Please remain in this setting so that only the performers are visible. This makes it easier for the teacher to identify and highlight the students.
Rename yourself. Lastly, it is VERY important that you do this step. If you do not have an account, it will give you a generic name like “Amy’s iPhone.” Please rename yourself in the meeting so I am confident everyone in attendance is connected with a student. You can do this by clicking on “participants”. Tap on yourself then “rename”.  Please rename yourself as something like “Adams’s aunt” or “Sarah’s grandma”.
1.  You are not to forward this invitation. Only the families putting on the recital are allowed to distribute invitation links. This is not to be shared as a public link anywhere including Facebook.
2. If you are on a mobile device or tablet, turning it sideways (a.k.a. landscape / horizontally) will give you a better view so it will fill the whole screen.
3. Program. I will take care of muting and un-muting each student when it’s their turn to perform and will spotlight their video. Since there will not be a printed program, I will introduce each student verbally and each of their pieces individually. I will unmute everyone at the end of each piece so we can clap but then will place everyone back on mute. Please do not do this yourself, the teacher will be the one to control this.
4.  Please know that internet connections can vary and while we hope we get good video and sound quality from each student, it is possible that at times you will experience a delay either in sound or video. Zoom often tries to make up for that and suddenly it will sound like it’s on fast forward. There is nothing that can be done with this but cross our fingers and pray we get a good sound. 

Please let us know if you have any questions and we hope to see you there (via Zoom that is! 🙂


#3 Keep it small

My recommendation would be no more than six students per recital. There are several reasons for this.

First, it takes intention and energy to keep your focus watching an online recital. I could feel myself struggling to not feel distracted after 30 minutes. My youngest students started exhibiting signs of losing their attention around 20-25 minutes.

Second, having fewer students means that they can play several pieces – especially those that have really short 8-measure pieces. The more students you have, the time can grow very quickly if you allow them to play 2 or 3 pieces each.

Third, the Zoom screen (at least on my monitor) will only show six videos across the top when in the “Spotlight” mode. Any more than that and I had to scroll to find the student.


#4 Use Spotlight View

There are several different views you can use in Zoom. Speaker View will feature whoever is speaking and Gallery View will show everyone equally.

When there are more than two people in the meeting, you can select to “spotlight” a particular video. I don’t have a screenshot, but you can do this by clicking on the three dots in the corner of the video you want to spotlight.


#5 Hide Non-Video Participants

Making sure that students are the only ones on video will help you identify them more quickly.

First of all, when you set up the meeting, be sure that you select “Video > Participants > OFF”  and “Mute participants upon entry” that way attendees will automatically enter the room on mute and off video. Students can just “join video” and “join audio” once they enter.

In my first recital, when in spotlight mode, I had to scroll through all the audience videos as well to find the students. It was messy.

I then discovered there is a setting that will “hide non-video participants.” Yea!

Click on the three dots on anyone’s video to select this setting.

It is so much cleaner and faster to navigate when it shows only students across the top!

To view all participants, click on “Participants” at the bottom of the screen and it will open up a panel on the right.


#6 Rename Names

One thing I learned after the fact is that it doesn’t do you any good to enable a waiting room and only admit who you’ve been told is coming if you don’t know who they are when they enter!

There is a catch though and I hope I explain this well so bear with me.

(I’ve been trialing this myself to see what the user experience would be like from the other end. I logged myself in to my desktop then logged out of the app on my phone so I could enter like an attendee without an account. I used a mobile device because my assumption is that is what the majority of people would use. Here’s what I found…)

People can, of course, join a meeting without having a Zoom account. However, when they click on your link to enter, it will enter them directly into the waiting room and I could find no place for them to rename themselves from there. If you admit them, it will give them a name like “Amy’s iPhone.”

Once they are in, THEN they can rename themselves by clicking on “Participants > Their name > Rename”.

So, basically, my analysis is that next time, while I will enable a password and waiting room. However, rather than having to recognize who it is before admitting them, I will admit everyone who enters.

In my instruction email, they will be told to rename themselves to identify them to me as soon as they get in like “Adam’s aunt”.

Another way around this would be to admit each person one at a time WITH video and you have a 10 second “hello and welcome!” face to face with them. Ask them who they are there to see and then rename them yourself from the participant side-bar. The downside to this is that everyone who enters will hear each person’s conversation with you as they enter and if you happen to get someone who doesn’t belong….ugh…I don’t know…

Maybe the easiest thing is to require they create an account and name themselves before joining but I hate to make people create an account for something they may only use once.

(I would look forward to hearing if I’m wrong on this or if anyone else has a different view. It’s tricky trying to figure out how to juggle this.)


#7 Remind students that when they are not performing, they are still on video

I’ve used this photo example several times, but did you notice the little guy in the background? LOL.

Little brother (who also performed) is looking quite relaxed in his chair. LOL.

During rehearsal, I had one student in particular (a 13-year-old) who, the entire time was looking around a lot, biting his nails, etc.

Even though I know he was listening, he was not aware of how distracting it was to the others to see him do those things while someone else was performing.

Unlike an in-person recital, they are still up front and visible the entire time!


#8 If recording, Allow extra time between each recital for it to Process

You can set up Zoom to record your meetings automatically. Do this either in your general settings or when you create each individual meeting.

I was going to record the recitals but learned quickly that if you have back-to-back recitals, the video needs time to process in between. Five to ten minutes was not enough.

Even though I intended to record them, I realized I wasn’t really going to do anything with them anyway and abandoned them after the second recital.


#9 Take a Screenshot Photo  at the End

At the end of all my recitals, I give out awards (read more about that here). So, I packed them up and delivered them to my student’s front porches prior to recital day.

At the end of the recital, I had everyone hold up their awards and we took a picture together. It worked pretty well!


Have you had your first Zoom recital yet? How did it go? Do you have any other tips or clarifications for any of the points I shared today? Let’s continue sharing in the comments!



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