What To Play at Your Students’ Recitals

[Note: This is a follow-up to 5 Reasons to Perform Alongside Your Students at Studio Recitals.]

Looking for ideas for pieces to play when performing alongside your students at student recitals? Here’s a few considerations.

  • Don’t think your piece has to be long, overly advanced, or showy/virtuosic. The goal is to share something fun and valuable for your students to hear. Why not play a piece your high schoolers could play someday? Why not refresh a piece you’ve previously learned?
  • Is there classical repertoire you are currently working on, or would love for your students to hear? How about a Beethoven or Haydn Sonata movement, or a Chopin Nocturne or Waltz? Or how about a short piece by Debussy, Muczynski, Gershwin, Tcherepnin, or Bartok?
  • Short on practice time? How about an intermediate or advanced sheet music single by a pedagogical composer, such as Melody Bober, Catherine Rollin, or Robert Vandall?
  • How about something familiar and/or popular? For example, an arrangement of a classic such as “What A Wonderful World” or “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”? Or what about a lovely hymn arrangement? For something flashy and fun, how about a virtuosic transcription by Jarrod Radnich? Did you know Nancy Faber wrote a fun jazz/pop arrangement of “Canon in D”?
  • Do you like to compose? How about playing something you wrote yourself? Students with the same inclinations might find this especially inspiring!
  • Do you have an advanced student or colleague who would enjoy playing a duet with you?
  • What friends do you have who play instruments other than piano? It might be fun to collaborate with another instrumentalist.
  • Idea from a reader: Have students vote from a shortlist of pieces you could play at the recital. Surprise them on recital day with the piece that gets the most votes.
  • Switch it up each year!

I’m curious: What are examples of pieces YOU have played at your studio recitals? Please post in the comments.

P.S. Perhaps you’ve noticed: My web host company has been having server issues for the past few days, causing my website to be difficult to access. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. I believe the issue is now resolved. Thanks for understanding!

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12 thoughts on “What To Play at Your Students’ Recitals”

  1. I have played a solo occasionally but usually engage in ensemble playing of some sort with students. It may be a duet, duo or within a trio or quartet. Most fun has been things like Lady Gaga’s fugue, Balloon Pop Polka, directing a quartet of keyboards, etc

  2. I have played the ever-popular Vince Guaraldi “Peanuts” transcriptions. I particularly enjoy “Oh, Good Grief.” I tell the audience that Charlie Brown and I have a lot in common and that “Oh, Good Grief” is “my” theme song. The parents and grandparents always relate to that!

    About 7 years ago, for a December recital, I had a friend of mine who teaches at Westminster College in Pennsylvania, join me for the four hands/one piano arrangement of Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride. It was a HUGE success. EVERYONE loved it! It inspired my teenage students and it showed all the students how fun it is to share music with a friend.

    My studio numbers have been down since my health issues (breast cancer–in remission 8 years this month! Yay me!, and a left-sided acoustic neuroma–benign brain tumor with hearing loss), so, when numbers are low, I have the students perform three pieces: a solo, a duet with me, and a duet with a friend/peer/or family member. They enjoy this, and they play more relaxed after their solo is “over” and they can have some duet fun. It creates camaraderie and shared angst equals less angst when they see we are all in “it” together! For this very reason, I do not call our recitals “recitals,” rather, A Musical Gathering of Friends (aka the “Un-Recital). Somehow, a simple series of words eases the pressure. It just sounds like something “nice” to do or to be a part of.

    Always enjoy YOUR insights! You inspire all of us “oldies but goodies!”

    1. Anita, you sound like a fun person and teacher! 🙂 I love Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride. A piano teacher friend of mine and I play Christmas duets together every December, and that is one of the pieces we play most years. How nice to hear how much your students loved it — and the Peanuts music, too!

      You brought up a great advantage to having smaller studio numbers: students can perform more than one piece at the recital without having the event last a terribly long time. Your “un-recital” sounds like such a fun gathering. How great to get together and enjoy music without so much pressure.

      Thanks for your wonderful comment, Anita!

  3. I meant to comment on your last post, but got busy. I am planning my first recital this year with my 2 students. It will be tiny, but I’m hoping we all have fun. I’m going to play a duet with each of them and a solo and duet with my sister at the end, though I have been indecisive on my selections. Your suggestions have given me a few ideas, since I don’t have time to really learn a big piece.

  4. One of my teacher friends just did something I’ve never seen before. She recorded the backgrounds for the latin piece “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” on her digital piano, saved it as an mp3 to her tablet and then played an acoustic grand LIVE with her custom background. She gave rhythm instruments to several of her students and let them accompany her while SHE accompanied herself! It was amazing and the entire recital hall went nuts. What a fun idea!

  5. Tomorrow I am playing Sancta Dorothea by Franz Liszt. Sometimes I let the students help me choose or I take votes on what they’d like to hear. Last year I played a Beethoven Andante movement, another year a Glinka Nocturne, another a couple of Sibelius pieces. Some years we do a feature section where we will all prep pieces. We did a Beatles anniversary a few years ago so I played Philip Keveren’s arrangement of “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

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