I am a piano teacher and a parent of kids who studied music. So I have been on both sides of the recital equation and I can tell you which is more stressful…the parent side.
As parents we really want our kids to have a great experience. We love them, we want more than anything for them to be happy and feel good about themselves. We dread the idea that they would crash and burn during a performance and come away upset, embarrassed, or worse crying. So when it’s our child’s turn to get up and show her stuff,
we sit on the edge of our seats, holding our breath, and hoping for the best.
But I am here to tell you recital time doesn’t have to be so stressful. After all, a recital is meant to be an enjoyable experience. A chance for our kids to learn and grow as musicians and as people.
Encourage Your Child to Be Prepared
Talk with your child about the upcoming performance and encourage her to practice and prepare. Make sure that her schedule will allow for practice time even if it means cutting back on some other activities for a few weeks. Assuming that you have a teacher you trust, let your child know that she should follow the teacher’s instructions, this will help ensure that she is ready for the big day.
Put Things Into Perspective
It’s only a recital. I always tell my students we are musicians, not physicians. If we mess up, nothing “bad” will happen. I let them know that every musician makes mistakes from time to time, even me. Yes, we should always strive to do our very best but music is a performance art. An artist paints a picture and it is finished, an author writes a book and it’s done. A pianist must recreate his work every time he performs. Part of the excitement of a live performance is that we never know exactly how it is going to go. Being a musician is the acceptance that sometimes things don’t always go as planned. In these cases we act gracefully and move on.
Listen to your teacher. If he tells you your child is not ready for an upcoming performance, believe him. It is usually better to sit out a recital than to play and play poorly. A good experience builds confidence and bad experience tears it down. A few bad performances can make performance anxiety ie. stage fright difficult to overcome in the future.
The exception would be a student who is not working hard, over-confident and not taking the situation seriously. In these cases a “wake up call” can sometimes be very effective. I have on occasion (twice in 35 years) allowed a student to play who I felt could have been better prepared. Both times I knew the student extremely well and it turned out to be a valuable learning experience.
Trust Your Gut
You are your child’s parent. You know him best. If you feel that your child has not been practicing, is struggling with the music or is having undo anxiety talk to your teacher. Some teachers require that all students participate in recitals. This is because as teachers we know that having goals and challenges helps students to move forward with their playing. However there are alternatives to solo playing that are less stressful such as playing duets with another student or with the teacher. In some cases a student could participate by handing out programs or helping with refreshments.
Take a Step Back
We all love it when our child does something really well. In every studio there is “that” student. The one who plays really well and impresses everyone. Sometimes this is our child, most of the time it’s not, and that’s OK. Let your child know that you are proud of her no matter how she performs. Celebrate the fact that she is doing something this would scare the life out of most people.
Keep in Mind that Your Child is Still a Student
No matter how old your child is she is still a student which means she is still learning. Seasoned performers learn how to keep the music going no matter what happens. We learn how to practice so that problems are kept to a minimum and how to make a piece sound “perfect” even when it is not. You teacher is working on this with your child but it takes a lot of experience to get to the point where performing is consistently good.
If your child has a wonderful recital that’s great! Ask her how she feels about it. Let her enjoy this moment of success, she did the work and she should feel good about having accomplished something. Congratulate yourself as well for taking her to lessons and being supportive as she practiced. Remind her to thank her teacher for the excellent instruction that led to her successful performance.
Have Your Child Evaluate Himself
I always ask my students how THEY felt about a recital after is is over. I ask questions like “what went well?” and “what could you have done differently?” You might ask your child how he felt while he was playing, or was he thinking about during the performance. If you child feels as though he did not play well ask why he thinks this is the case. You might be surprised by the answer.
No matter how the recital goes make sure your child knows that you give him credit for getting up there and playing. If he says he should have been better prepared, remind him there is always next time.
Here are a few more things that you can do to help your child have a positive recital experience.
Arrive on Time
Please get to the recital venue at the time the teacher asks you to be there. If you have any friends or relatives who are coming ask them to do the same. It is very upsetting to students when they are late for a recital or are looking around to see if Grandma is in the audience.
Dress for Success
This is a performance. Please don’t come in super casual clothes or dressed for a soccer match. You would never send you daughter in a gown to the soccer field. Enough said.
Silence cell phones please pay full attention to every student performing at the recital. Refrain from talking during performances. Plan to stay for the entire performance. It may be tempting to leave early but imagine that your child is the last one performing and everyone else has left before they had a chance to play.
It’s About More Than Just Music
Recitals are amazing learning experiences for anyone who is fortunate enough to participate. Performance gives children the opportunity to prepare something excellent and present it to others in real time. This takes planning, courage and poise something that will serve them well as they meet life’s challenges.
Relax, take a seat and enjoy the recital. This is another milestone in your child’s development. Give yourself a big giant pat on the back for making it possible.
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