Friday, May 1, 2015

Recital Time: We Celebrate Accomplishment

It's May, which means you've just participated in (or will soon experience) an end-of-year Let's Play Music recital.  Recitals are our biggest, shiniest way we share one of our fundamental values: We Celebrate Accomplishment and Aspire to Excellence.

Students of Nicci Lovell in Mesa, AZ perform classical music puppet show actions during a recital.
Why Perform?
How many adults have you met who wish they had persevered with music lessons instead of quitting early? Perhaps they needed more recitals! 'Too few performing opportunities' is among the TOP FACTORS that cause students to quit music lessons.  Let's take a closer look at your recital and why it's such a great teaching tool.  So, what does a student get from participating in a recital?

Every student wishes to perform well in front of friends, family, and peers. For a first-year student, this may be the first time he gleans a deep understanding of the magic of serious practicing toward a goal.  Third-year students are definitely aware that a few weeks' of focus can result in an excellent show.  The upcoming show motivates students to add that bit of extra effort.  

"I'm definitely not going to miss any practices for the next 2 weeks, because I want to be really perfect for the SHOW!"  "I want to work extra hard on this piece, because it's going to be in the SHOW!"
First-year students of Heather Prusse in Gilbert, AZ had their bells songs mastered in time for the show.

We aspire for excellence. At recital time, students have the opportunity and motivation to present their best selves.  They choose to write beautiful, challenging compositions and practice them to perfection.  Because our pass-off songs during the year are sometimes less-than-perfect (read our post on the learning process), recital gives an opportunity to strive for the VERY BEST. Once students know what that feels like, they raise the bar for in-class songs, too.

Students will be asked to polish recital pieces beyond the level of perfection expected in class AND memorize them.  Will they rise to the exciting challenge, one that can only be met with steady, disciplined effort? Yes! Like the myriad of smaller challenges presented during Let's Play Music class, this one is intimidating at first, but definitely achievable.  "I know it is a big job to memorize this entire song, but I think if I add just a measure each day I'll be able to get it." "I don't want to skip practice today, because I know I need to learn at least one more line by tomorrow to be on target for learning this piece by showtime!"

I love having recitals back-to-back or combined with several classes.  When a student sees the younger class perform, he can develop a sense of accomplishment and growth. "Last year I played that song, too. Now I can play so much better."  

Likewise, when watching an experienced student, he can set very realistic goals and aspire for the next year.  "I love that song that he wrote! I can't wait until I write my own song- It's going to be fantastic."  

In every case, students usually pull off their very best performances and even surprise themselves with how beautifully they perform.   "Grandma, did you hear me play the bells? I played perfectly!"   

Even when things go differently, students have an opportunity to evaluate themselves. "I missed a few notes on that song. I think I could have done better in the A section."

Performance Skills
Second-year students of Jodi Blackburn in Mesa, AZ 
It takes muster to get up on stage and perform! Some students are extremely nervous and anxious, but challenge themselves and go onstage nonetheless.  While it seems scary, the more a student performs, the more comfortable he becomes at it.  Recitals give students opportunities to build courage and confidence: traits that translate to public speaking and life events later on. 

"Last year I was pretty nervous to go on the stage, but this year it's not so bad. I know Mom is going to love hearing me play."

Recitals teach that mistakes are part of life.  Inevitably, a few stray notes will happen on stage.  Mistakes are common and we all make them.  Students learn that the mistakes are not the focus of the evening.  The important thing is getting up on stage and performing.  We focus on the accomplishment and not the mishaps that occur.

The recital is a show, a performance, and a grand celebration.  I love to have pretty cakes and myriad treats at recitals, accompanied by awards and matching shirts and dressing up.  It is a special day and a big party complete with photos and flowers and lots of clapping.  After the marathon work students put in to produce their best work, a celebration is in order for a job well done.  We celebrate accomplishment!
First-year students celebrated with teacher, Tera Nelson in Rancho Cordova, CA

All Year Long
The Let's Play Music program is designed to celebrate accomplishment and aspire for excellence all year long.  Each time a student echoes Ed, sight-reads Edna's melody, or performs a pass-off song, a small opportunity arises to celebrate.  

"You really listened carefully…and you got it!"  "You played that song the best I've ever heard you play it!"  "Last week that was really tough for you, but you practiced and now you're doing it faster!"

Every activity in class has a purpose in music-teaching, every class takes students one step closer to excellence, and every time children participate in class activities they perform in a micro-recital among peers and parents.  

-Gina Weibel, MS
Let's Play Music Teacher

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