How to Organise Fun Piano Recitals [Expert Roundup]

By Sean Wales | Exploring Exams and Recitals

Apr 19

fun piano recitals

Fun Piano Recitals

Today we have a fantastic Expert Roundup post, giving you some ideas on how to organise fun piano recitals.

Contributing to today’s post are experienced piano teachers and music bloggers. They are sharing with us a way of putting on a performance or recital that is different; a recital that is creative, engaging and fun for piano students.

Many students are scared by the thought of performing on a stage in front of an audience. The ideas presented in today’s post will help you think of new ways to encourage your students to perform their pieces.

Related: How to Tackle Piano Performance Anxiety

Many of today’s expert contributors are members of Tim’s Inner Circle. This community is full of music experts, bloggers and educators who want to help you become a better piano teacher.

For more information on how you can join this creative community of teachers, click here.

Nicola Cantan

What is a ‘January Jam’?

Instead of a Christmas concert this year I held two “January Jams”. There’s so much on around Christmas time here that I thought it would be fun to move our recital to January and try to cheer everyone up in the coldest month instead.

Improvisation, pop, jazz and ensemble playing was the focus of these informal concerts. The entire concert alternated between solo and ensemble pieces. Students played with drumming tracks, backing tracks and, of course, there were plenty of 12 bar blues for good measure. This was a tonne of fun and gave students a taste of the “band” experience that most students of other instruments would be getting in school.

It was also a great opportunity for my students and their parents to get a feel for the broad range of genres that pianists can play. I don’t want my students to associate the piano with only Beethoven and Bach. I want them to know that piano can fit in with whatever music is their style and I think these alternative concerts helped with that.

The January Jams were a big hit and it’s definitely something I’ll be looking to repeat next year.

See more fantastic ideas from Nicola on her very own piano blog by clicking here

Rachael Wherry

Mix up your Christmas recitals

I run a studio of around 35-40 pupils. Once a year I do special Christmas recitals which I call my Christmas Playovers.

We use the local coffee shop because I like to create a relaxed ‘cabaret’ style of an evening.

The coffee shop lets me organise drinks, so my mum and husband are in charge of that. It means we can make it a free evening for everyone. I restrict numbers to around 10 performers so the students can play three or four pieces each depending on their length. I make sure the recital doesn’t go on too long, as students easily get bored.

Only students’ family and friends are invited and everyone sits around tables and on sofas with coffee and biscuits. I try and keep it fun, informal and not scary. I really focus on it being an enjoyable hour for everyone involved.

Some students play their own compositions, some do their exam pieces, some do pieces from their method book. I encourage a wide variety of styles and nearly everyone plays a Christmas Carol and we all join in singing. Jingle bells and percussion are available for the little ones!

We usually have a Piano Maestro performance and a few duets. The improvisation ‘experts’ do their thing when everyone is arriving and leaving as well as being involved in the main performance. I love every minute of doing it and preparing for it. I don’t stress about everyone being note perfect, all I want is for it to be a positive experience for my students and their families.

Check out Rachael’s studio website by clicking here.

Tim Topham

Have you tried running a pop piano concert?

Last year, I ran my first Pop Piano Recital. Actually, we called it a Pop Piano Jam Sesh (“Session”) because the students and I thought that sounded cooler. The idea came from the Podcast I recorded back in Episode 12 with Kristin Yost about her Pop Piano Showcase Concerts.

The idea of a Pop Piano Jam is to give students in your studio learning pop music, the opportunity to play it in its original context, ie. as part of a band and preferably with vocals.

While you can always have students playing pop music as part of a ‘classical recital’ (and I’ve done that many times up to this point), if you have enough students, you can try a Pop Piano Recital which features your student playing (and maybe singing!) pop music along with a rhythm section: bass, drums, guitar.

I can’t tell you how much fun the students had, how much they learnt about playing in a group, organising music for other musicians, ‘talking’ to musicians while playing (eg. using your eyes and communicating) and heaps more. While you could make this a really special evening event with lighting, smoke machines, awesome audio setup, etc., I decided to keep it really simple the first time and just did it after school one day.

Sound like something you’d like to try?

Next month, as part of Pop Month, I’m going to be sharing with you a two-part blog series about how to put these Pop Piano Recitals together, show you footage from my event, show you how to rehearse students and what technology you’ll need.

I think this is one of the best things I’ve done in the last 10 years of teaching!

Roberta Wolff

How to run themed studio concerts

Themed studio concerts are great fun, give a sense of working towards a shared goal and help take the edge off nerves and self-consciousness, meaning students learn better. A bit of inventiveness goes a long way when planning themed concerts. Here are some ideas you could use in your next studio recital.

Highlighting Musical Skills

To make for a more interactive experience, a portion of time can be allotted to sight-reading or improvising duets or playing students’ own compositions or improvisations.

Featuring a Period or Composer  

Studying a composer’s life and selection of compositions in this way will make the music more relevant and students will consolidate their knowledge. Why not pick a welcome piece of music by your composer to play in the background while people arrive and settle? You could also put students in charge of producing a themed programme.

Abstract Stimulus.

This is a fun way to get to know your students better. Share a link to a piece of famous art and ask students to react to it through music. They could compose, improvise or choose to learn a piece they feel connects to the art. Alternatively, you could use a piece of orchestral music as your stimulus, so students are listening beyond piano repertoire.

Current Trends

This is a great way to ensure piano lessons are not partitioned from other music in students’ lives. Students always have fun transcribing pop songs, game theme tunes and film music.

Surprise me

This works well when time is short. Ask each student to prepare a surprise, something you have never heard them play.

Conclusion 

Whether you choose to theme your next studio concert or not, there is one, easy thing that every teacher can do to change the atmosphere and nature of the experience their students have; that is to grant permission. Students will develop a whole variety of useful skills when they stop chasing a single outcome.

The sorts of permissions students might be glad to have are; permission to play a piece more than once, permission to fail so they can learn how to prepare better next time, permission to play closer to the edge than they might in another situation, permission to play their own interpretations (this creates a very lively environment) and permission to experiment, which shifts the emphasis of your concert onto learning rather than just performing.

Teachers need to make a big deal about these opportunities because doing so signifies studio concerts are a time for learning rather than a time for being tested, or even worse, compared.

Roberta’s music website has plenty of resources, click here

Lynda Irvine

Create performance opportunities in a small town

I live and teach in a small country town in a remote location with almost no performance opportunities. I am one of about eight music teachers in town.

To give my students the opportunity to perform, I organise two casual performances a term for any music student in the district. The opportunities are open to all students (voice or instrumental) from all the teachers in the area. This is the third year they have been organised and the enthusiasm of the students and the benefit to the students has been well worth the effort.

Every student who wants to play does two songs for the little ones and one song for the more advanced ones. It doesn’t matter how long they have been learning, two weeks or 10 years, everyone is welcome. If there are more than 25 students wanting to play we have two performances with a 15-minute break between. We had 48 playing last week!

I also organise one ‘glitzy concert’ a year for all the teachers of more advanced students. This is at the local theatre with an MC and proper stage entrance/exits needed. Performers are encouraged to dress in concert attire as well, with a flower for each student at curtain call.

These performance opportunities have been great for the teachers involved. More experienced teachers give new teachers some casual help with any questions they have and we also exchange repertoire ideas. It is a good chance to catch up and learn from one another. Also, the students hear different repertoire and after three years are getting to know and encourage each other during and away from these fun piano recitals. 

View Lynda’s piano studio online, click here.  

Ron Ottley

Take your students to a retirement home

I take a group of students to a retirement home or village to present a recital. Any recital gives students a reason to polish up the pieces they will play, a deadline to meet, and experience playing in public. But when the recital takes place at a retirement home, there is also a strong service to the community. I always thank my students for sharing their time and their piano skills with another generation.

At a retirement home the venue, the piano, and an audience are provided and, so far, parents are welcome too. The residents seem to really enjoy and appreciate hearing the children play.

I aim to do this twice a year and to find different homes to visit. On our last visit, seventeen students took part. Each student could play up to three pieces. I think one hour is about right for this situation and this time 42 items took almost exactly one hour.

I get the students to perform their three pieces spread throughout the programme rather than doing a block of three at the same time. Everyone has a printed programme with the student’s name, age, and the title of their piece. Apart from a short talk at the beginning, there are no announcements or introductions.

I think a visit to a retirement home to entertain the residents is beneficial for my students, the residents, and of course my studio.

What Do You Think?

Wow, I hope you found that informative and helpful! There were plenty of ideas you could implement into your studio concerts to make them fun and exciting.

Do you have any other ideas to add? Please, leave them in the comments section so other teachers can read what fun piano recitals you are organising for your students.

Stay tuned for another Expert Roundup next month, when we explore everything to do with pop piano music.

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About the Author

Sean is one of Tim’s former piano students, now in his third year of study at the University of Melbourne. Majoring in Italian and Media and Communications, he hopes to one day work as a journalist overseas.

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