My student recital this year was canceled, as I’m sure is the case for many of you due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. In place of our in-person event, my students and I moved forward with “Plan B” — organizing a “virtual recital”. I went about this process similar to the way my friend Jonathan Roberts did, as discussed in this recent Teacher Feature post.
I pretty pleased with how it turned out, and I’d actually like to use this recital format again sometime in the future! In this long-form blog post, I’ll share specific steps for how I went about organizing and publishing my studio’s virtual recital, and what I learned along the way.
This post is a follow-up, of sorts, to my post last week about how to get started teaching remote piano lessons. As we navigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, we face opportunities to not only adapt our teaching, but also our recital organizing!
Today, I bring you a bit of inspiration for how YOU could consider offering a recital opportunity to your students during these unprecedented times. My friend, Jonathan Roberts (organizer of the South Shore Piano Camp for which I’ve instructed the past two summers), recently organized a “virtual recital” featuring videos made by his students and then posted to YouTube. I have been considering doing something similar next month with my students. Seeing how Jon’s virtual recital turned out earlier this week has made me more inspired and motivated to take on this project!
Before you read on, check out Jon’s playlist here. I hope you enjoy Jon’s sense of humor in his opening/closing remarks video, as well as seeing his students play their prepared pieces in their own home environments.
Upon being asked, Jon was kind enough to agree to being interviewed about how he went about organizing and publishing his virtual recital. So, now that you’ve seen for yourself how it turned out, let’s have a conversation with Jon to learn more about this project!
Hi, Jon! Could you tell us a little bit about your studio and your students’ recent virtual recital?
Hi, Joy! Thank you so much for having
This past September, I expanded my home studio into a multi-teacher organization, the South Shore Piano School, in Quincy, MA (just south of Boston). We have doubled in size since then, with an enrollment of about 70 students right now, ranging in age from 4 to 67. In addition to weekly lessons, we run monthly student recitals and regular community “field trips” to hear world-class pianists, both solo and with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Our first-ever virtual recital was a project I put together shortly after school classes, after-school activities, and most public gatherings were suspended, seemingly overnight. On about 24 hours notice, we had to move over to online lessons pretty quickly, and we were actually supposed to have an in-person recital on Sunday, March 22nd.
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!
Here’s a few reasons why I perform alongside my students at our studio recitals.
1: It creates an opportunity for my students to hear me play. They shouldn’t be surprised that, yes, their piano teacher can perform and play quite nicely! 😉
2: It gives me a goal to practice towards. This is good for me! It makes me practice.
3: By putting myself through the same performance situation as my students, I stay in touch with what it feels like for my students. Empathy helps me be a better teacher as my students go through the recital preparation process.
4: It creates an opportunity for me to be a good model for my students, in terms of conducting myself onstage, playing well, etc.
5: It’s fun to pick out and perform a special piece to show my students.
I’m curious: Do YOU perform alongside your students at studio recitals?
Over the weekend, I held my fifth annual masterclass exchange for my students.
What’s a masterclass exchange? Well, it’s when I ask a piano teacher friend/colleague to come in and work with a group of my students. In return, I offer to work with a group of his/her students. I hold this event every year as one of my students’ monthly “Piano Party” group classes. We use it as a way to rehearse for our upcoming studio recital.
For our annual Spring Recital, I maintain a tradition of letting my piano students choose their own special piece to memorize and perform. In December or January, I restock my library of sheet music solos at all the various levels, so that I can demonstrate 3-4 pieces for each student to choose from.
I’ve started to try to keep track of some of the pieces that I feel were favorites or especially successful in performance over the past few years. I think every teacher should keep track of their favorite teaching pieces! I suggest doing so using a YouTube playlist or a spreadsheet file (Excel or Google Sheets). In fact, I have started a Collaborative Repertoire List project here that you may be interested in viewing.
Today, I’d like to share with you a selection of favorite sheet music solos my students have played over the past few years. In this video, you will hear me talk about and play excerpts from 18 pieces. Below the video, you’ll find written comments for each piece as well as links for purchasing the sheet music. Enjoy!
My studio’s annual Spring Recital was on Sunday. So proud of how my students played!
We held it at a local church that has a nice Yamaha. Even my youngest students participated, even if only with a simple duet.
My husband was kind enough to take a photo of each student, which I emailed to parents afterwards.
As is our tradition, I gave each student a rose for their performance at the end of the recital.
I’m sure many of you are preparing students for your own spring recitals. I wish you all the best in your preparations!
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On Saturday, seven of my students played their recital pieces for a local Ribbon Festival held by my local MTNA/OhioMTA chapter. So proud of them!
I’ve been sending students to this festival since I moved to Ohio three years ago. This is a non-competitive event — meaning, there are no winners. Students perform one piece by memory and are given a ribbon, a certificate, and a comment sheet from an adjudicator. The comments are always written in a positive, encouraging way, even if there are many suggestions for improvement. At this particular festival, students are awarded a certain color ribbon according to how many years they have participated in the festival. This certainly motivates students to come back each year!
I find it so valuable for students to participate in community events outside of my studio. It is good for students to have a goal to prepare for and become accustomed to performing in various settings. And it is always beneficial for students to hear other students play and get exposed to more music. When we prepare for outside events, we talk about hearing the performance through the ears of the audience/judges.
I always look forward to reading what the adjudicators write on the comment sheets. Usually, the comments either (1) confirm my thoughts about the piece or the student’s playing, or (2) give me ideas that I hadn’t considered before (which is great!). When the judges’ comments reinforce what I am trying to develop in my student, this is helpful to both of us!
Other benefits: It is good for students to learn to be open to feedback coming from sources other than the teacher. And when students receive positive feedback from an outside source, they are assured that the teacher is providing good instruction.
To sum it up: Sending my students to outside events has helped me become a better teacher.
There are many different types of community events and as I mentioned earlier, they are not necessarily competitive. If you do not currently send your students to outside events, I would encourage you to research what might be happening right in your own town! I recommend checking if there is a local MTNA chapter in your area. Other options in the U.S. include: National Federation of Music Clubs (NFMC), Piano Guild, and the Royal Conservatory of Music testing. Each of these programs offer unique benefits, so there is bound to be something that is right for you and your students!
My students and I are currently preparing pieces for our Spring Recital. I like to schedule my recital early (March or April), to avoid the busy end-of-the-year season.
This year, I decided to design some simple recital invitations for students to share with family and friends. I printed these myself on cardstock paper.
I also designed a matching recital program that I will use that day.
Feel free to download the Microsoft Word template for the invitations/program design and use them yourself this year. All you have to do is edit the text and add your own studio name/logo. You recommend printing onto nice, heavy paper in the color of your choice.
On Saturday, my students performed at our annual Spring Recital. (I know it is not technically Spring yet — just wishful thinking!) We had a great day and I’m so proud of my students and their hard work.