There seems to be a lot of online chatter from piano teachers about piano recitals, much more than usual. I guess a world-wide pandemic would be at least one reason to re-think how we all have done things in the past. And this led to me thinking about the real value of piano recitals.
It is ‘known’ (I prefer assumed) that performing at a recital is an important experience for piano students. The atmosphere, the lights, the experience of performing in front of a crowd all seem to be considered worth the inevitable anxiety this experience also includes.
In a pre-Covid19 world it has been argued that recitals or any public performance encouraged students’ growth, improved skills, built confidence, focus on detail, and helped develop skills to deal with nervousness and anxiety.
There are even suggested health benefits such as stimulating growth hormones and the brain, strengthening hand muscles and language skills, as well as relieving stress. And let’s not forget to mention managing a less-than-perfect performance gracefully while developing strategies to improve for next time.
All of these are important and useful life skills that trickle out into other areas and activities but are piano recitals in their current form even possible anymore? Even if they are possible, are there other ways to achieve the same, similar, or even better results? There are some who have migrated their recitals onto a variety of online formats from ‘live’ to pre-recorded events but going forward will these be enough, or provide the same benefits?
These questions don’t even touch on the problems of recitals. Some students are simply incapable of participating because of crippling medical conditions, or inequitable financial problems. The amount of work for a teacher to arrange and then deliver a recital is far, far beyond most parents’ understanding or even appreciation and just not always possible. And let’s not forget the people who are only really interested in watching their own child while being too impatient or busy to want to watch anyone else’s.
So where does this leave teachers? No doubt, recitals will continue to be offered to those who want to participate, by those willing to deliver this experience, and all credit to them. However, for some, offering a recital isn’t feasible or possible therefore other options need to be looked at.
Here are some suggestions to use as a launchpad for alternatives, and don’t forget to think about prizes, rewards, trophies, certificates, etc.
1) 2021 will be the next Olympic Games year. How about offering a Finger Olympics? Choose a technical exercise such as a group of scales, Hanon or Czerny for example and set a challenge for most improved in each age or level. Work out the BPM in week 1, then record their progress over a specified period eg 10 weeks. You could video the first and final weeks for each student to show their progress.
2) Hold an online eisteddfod or ‘We’ve got talent’ where each student submits a video and others vote on which one they like. Most likes = winner.
3) Throughout the year, as each student completes a piece, video it and compile all of that student’s videos into a 'greatest hits' DVD that becomes Mum's Xmas or Mother’s Day gift.
4) Students write an arrangement of a duet for them to play on piano with another family member or friend to play on their instrument. Video and upload.
5) Arrange or write a piano solo piece then hire a recording studio for the day where each student has 30 minutes with a producer to record their piece then mix it down.
At the end of the day, any additional experience that teachers choose to arrange for their students will be beneficial if there are two key elements: the teacher is willing to arrange the experience, and parents are prepared to support it.
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