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 an 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!

One of our local churches has a beautiful large outdoor pavilion – it’s the perfect location. They rent it for a very modest fee that any piano teacher could afford, and there’s a grill already there and lots of picnic tables.

I have a portable keyboard which we plug into a speaker to help amplify the sound. This was much needed and I hadn’t even considered it the first year. I had only arranged a speaker to use a microphone as one of my students was singing. Once we got there, we realized the piano needed a little help as well! Otherwise, the sound got lost in the large open air space.

I announce the date at the end of May and then email families this beautiful invitation about 4 weeks prior, which I designed on Canva.



Even though I invite all studio families, including those who don’t take summer lessons, I’ve yet to have one of those families attend.

I arrange helpers to come before and stay after to help clean up, and there’s always plenty of food. We had a large thunderstorm come through this year and had to delay the start by 30 minutes. However, the church fellowship hall is our backup plan if rain is an issue.



Summer is a good time for students to play popular tunes, Disney, or anything else they may be interested in.

This summer I tried a new lesson format I first heard about in Tim Topham’s interview with Arizona piano teacher Lynette Barney.

Teaching Outside the Box with Lynette Barney.

Two students arrive at the same time and one does a 30-minute lesson and the other a music lab then they switch. Two more students arrive and the first two stay for an additional 30 minutes. We then had a 30-minute group class. Then the first two left and the second two stayed for their 30-30 flip flop lesson. So, students were there for one hour and thirty minutes total and had a short group class every week.

This went really well and for each group class we opened with some solfege/audition singing, played one or two theory games, and I assigned one ensemble piece for each group which we performed at the picnic.

Ensemble music:

Birthday Bouquet Theme and Variations on Happy Birthday. This was a duet that used jazz, boogie, ragtime, and blues variations of the tune.

Grand Piano Trios, Book 2 and 3

I played Piano Safari’s I Love Coffee with a new student.

Alfred’s Basic Course: Ensemble Book Complete, Level 1


A few other books and solos:

The Disney Collection

Alfred Praise Hits Complete, Level 1

One of my older students heard this piece online and said they were interested in playing it. We made some little modifications but she mastered it in 3 weeks! Nuvole Bianche by Ludovico Einaudi.



How in the world can a picnic performance be used as a marketing tool? It’s so simple it requires zero effort.

It’s called invitations!

This informal recital is the perfect time for students to invite their friends to come with them or for families to invite friends who may be interested in lessons to join them.

Several families have told me that they have good friends or people from their church who were looking for an opportunity to see their kids perform. Spring recital is a bit more formal and much longer to sit through but something like this is the perfect opportunity.

Remember, it’s not always about putting yourself in front of the people who want to take lessons, but increasing awareness in the community and putting yourself in front of someone who may recommend you in the future!


Do you do anything like this in the summer? What ideas do you have for creating community in your studio?


  • Love this idea, Amy! Also appreciate the link to Nuvole Bianche. I’ve heard this piece before but never tracked it down. I have several older students that will love this!

  • Thanks for the Einaudi links! Just forwarded that to a student who jumped right on it & bought it!
    It looks like Birthday Bouquet is out of print…….. ;-(
    I’m seeing some used copies but not sure I want to spring for something I haven’t heard for that much money. It sounded like a good one; I love finding good duets.

    Forrest Kinney has 88 variations on Happy Birthday! https://forrestkinney.com/88-birthday-variations-2/

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