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.

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A Summer Coffeehouse Recital

Last night my studio had our final Summer performance for the first time at a coffeehouse!

(My summer session only ran from the last week of May through July 18 this year because the last two weeks of July I’m away at NCKP and Joy Morin’s Piano Teacher Retreat.)

Summer lessons are optional in my studio and while most years I have around 70% of my students still take summer lessons, this year was a lot less.

(That was OK with me though, because I was planning on taking a Sabbatical Summer but since our house was not finished, I decided to continue to teach but really needed a lighter load – both for a little breather, and to have time to work on the house.)

I had fourteen students taking lessons but four of them were siblings that I did as a group class. Six students played in our summer recital.

Most years, when I have a lot more students, I’ve done an outdoor picnic which has always been great. With a lot fewer students performing, I wanted a small but still unique setting.

I was able to rent out a local coffee shop for $30 for the evening and we did a dessert and coffee carry-in.

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Studio Awards Update (Including Some Awesome Trophies!)

This year marked the eighth year of my full-time piano studio. Suddenly, this spring, it just felt like it was the year to go through a revision of the studio awards I give at our year-end Spring Recital.

My original post Studio Awards: Policies and Procedures (which I just updated),  includes details on the types of awards, specific trophies, and how I track them from year to year.

This year I went through a pretty good overhaul. Not only have I changed what awards students get for their years of study as part of the MTNA Music Study Award (again, see the first post), but I changed trophy companies and I am very happy with the results.

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Improve Your Audience’s Recital Experience with these Simple Signs

Organizing a studio recital involves lots of different aspects beyond student repertoire preparation. Many of us, I’m sure, have stories we can tell of the lessons learned in our first few years of recital-planning.

One of my first lessons-learned was to put up some kind of signage, especially when the recital is not in the same location every year.

Is it a necessity? No. Can people generally find their way to the recital hall or auditorium eventually? Yes.

So why use direction signs?

If you’ve ever attended a graduation party, baby shower, or conference, I’m sure you will agree that the minute you see a sign indicating you are in the correct location, you breathe a sigh of relief.

It’s comforting to not have to wonder if you’re in the right location or to have to search for where you’re going. Relieving this small anxiety for your audience will not only make a great first impression but will add a professional touch with little effort. All it takes is a few signs posted around the building where the recital is being held.

The signs are very simple. No-frills. I kept them pretty plain rather than with a design so they can be used at any kind of recital, no matter what your program looks like.

They’re being made available to you in Microsoft Word format so you can download the document and make tweaks to your heart’s content or print only the signs you’ll use.

I like to include my logo at the top of the page.  Feel free to import your own!

Signs include:

  • Arrows pointing to the correct direction to find the recital location/room.
  • Asking the audience to wait in the foyer until the doors open.
  • Reminding attendees food and drink should be taken into the recital hall. (Unless you’re having a special recital like a picnic of course! 🙂
  • Asking the audience to sit toward the front half of the room. (I use these when we’re in a large sanctuary so it doesn’t feel like they’re all spread out. I set them on either end of the row/pew encouraging people to keep moving forward.

 

Consider taking your signage a step further and purchase a yard sign you can reuse from year to year that has your studio logo and says “Recital Here” or something generic that could be used for any kind of performance(s) you organize in your studio.

What was one of the first things you learned when planning a recital that helped it go smoother the following year and each year since?

 

Spring Recital 2018

“Songs We Know”

This past Sunday was my studio’s 7th spring recital. Every year I try to do something different to keep things interesting. Last year we did a studio-wide collaborative project (a narrative suite). In 2016 we did collaborative pieces (duets, trios, 2-pianos 4-hands).

Sometimes in the fall, I hold a themed recital. This past fall we did a church music recital and three years ago we did a color recital (this recital was prior to Piano Pantry so I don’t have a post on it).

This year the theme was “Songs We Know.” Usually, I reserve the majority of pop-tune playing and such for our summer picnic performance. With our house project and all that’s going on this year though, I decided to forego the summer performance. Thus, the popular-themed music for spring recital.

I’m going to share a couple of highlights from our recital including a list of the repertoire books we used.

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Recital Help

Since we’re entering Spring recital season, I thought I would just give you a quick run-down of some of the posts here on Piano Pantry that might help you with your recital preparations.

 

Recital Planning and Organization

 

 

Recital Theme and Student Repertoire Ideas

 

 

 

Click on the photo below to see my 2016 recital which featured collaborative pieces including duets, trio’s, and more.

What are you doing for your recital theme this year? Ours is “Pieces Everyone Knows.” That would mean anything from pop, Broadway, movie hits, worship, etc. Students are having fun picking out pieces. It usually doesn’t take them too long to know exactly what they want to play!

 

Favorite Hymn and Praise Piano Books

(and a Church Music Recital)

Have you ever done a themed-recital?

Two years ago I decided I wanted to start doing themed recitals on occasion.  My Spring recital sometimes has a partial theme, but I wanted something that was a 100% all-in theme. Participation is optional for students, but both times I have had nearly 75% of my students participate. Mid-October seems to be a good time, right before Fall break.

My first one was a “color” theme. That recital happened prior to Piano Pantry so I don’t have a post about it  – maybe someday. 🙂 This year, since so many of my students are already using their skills in church, it felt like the right time to do a “church-music” theme.

Today I’m going to share with you a few highlights from our recital as well as some of my favorite resources for church music repertoire for students. Be sure and share your favorites in the comments!

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2017 Studio 88 Spring Recital 

The Magical Forest, A Narrative Suite

This year was my 6th Spring Recital teaching piano full-time. I’ve been teaching piano for around 16 years but only part-time up until the last 6 years when I opened “Studio 88” after getting my Masters in Piano Pedagogy and Performance.

Are my kids lovely or what? We were missing three this year but still had a good crew.

The last several years I’ve been trying to mix things up a bit to keep the big recital fresh and exciting. Everyone plays a solo the first half of the recital followed by a 10-minute intermission.

The second half of the recital changes from year to year. Two years ago everyone played a jazzy style and I explained to the audience before each style set what they should expect to hear. Last year we did collaborative pieces including duets, trios, and two pianos four hands (some pieces with a live drummer).

This year, we did a studio-wide collaborative project. I pulled out a book I’ve been itching to use for several years but didn’t have enough students at an early intermediate level to have performed them until now.

I’m going to share the process of pulling something like this together and also share a free download to help you plan your own production of this narrative suite.

 

The Magical Forest Narrative Suite

The Magical Forest- A Narrative Suite for Piano by Nancy Lau combines short narration with pieces. Each piece also has a representative drawing.

Pieces include: Entering the Magical Forest, Forest Fanfare, March of the Critters, Bear Dance, Waltz of the Deer, The Fairies Delight, Backwoods Bop, Woodland Farewell, and Leaving the Magical Forest. Continue reading

Recital Preparation Timeline and Checklist

It’s that time of year for many when preparations for year-end recitals are in full-force. The first year I had a recital in my studio, I kept detailed records of what needed to be done when, food needs and amounts, and more. I’ve continued to do so every year and this habit has turned out to be a planning life-saver.

This Recital Preparation Timeline and Checklist keeps me sane, saves money (by tracking food purchases vs. actual usage), and saves time by not having to think through every little detail again from year to year.

I hope this checklist will show you how to keep good records of your recitals and make planning a breeze.

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Picnic Performance

I’m excited to share with you a wonderful informal performance I host for my students in the summer.

You’ll not only get all the nitty-gritty including repertoire used, and my preparation checklist, but I’m going to show you how this performance can be used as a marketing tool!

 

Until last year I didn’t do any kind of recitals during the summer. I believe in keeping summer commitments as light as possible, which is why I make summer optional for families. I usually have 60% of my students take summer lessons.

(Since you’re a piano teacher I know you’re wondering…yes my income drops in the summer. However, students who don’t take have to pay a $25 non-refundable holding fee. This amounts to several hundred dollars which helps a little with the reduced summer income.)

Last summer, however, I decided I wanted to do in informal picnic performance for students taking summer lessons.

I can’t remember the exact reason I decided to do this, but do recall seeing Irina Gorin posting on Facebook about a picnic with her studio families and I thought it was a lovely idea. I’m always looking for ways to build community within my studio and what better way than to have a meal together!

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