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Recital Preparation

Recital Preparation! At the end of the school year, I like to provide an event for my music students to "show off" their favorite musical pieces for family, friends and loved ones in a supportive, loving atmosphere that is safe and nurturing. Many students have worked diligently on musical repertoire for the past 9 months and are ready to share their progress with others and celebrate their musical growth and prowess. It is important that this experience be a positive one- building each musician's self-esteem.

So many times, however, I have observed over the years that music students and their families do not fully understand what is required of a "performer." I grew up in a home of physicians that new nothing about playing music. My parents just wanted to make sure I learned to play piano, but they had no previous knowledge or training on how to assist me with my musical development. I see many students now in my same situation.

Many students invest the entire school year working on pieces and memorizing their songs but then have little knowledge of how important the week and day leading up to the recital are in the success of their performance experience, especially for first year students!

I hope to assist people in becoming more aware of what is truly important when preparing for a public performance such as a recital, talent show, pageant, or public event. It has taken me 30 some odd years to master this and my hope is to spare you the pain I experienced myself as an adolescent wanting to play my music on stage and not understanding why things fell apart once I was up there in front of hundreds of people.

Here is my top 6 list of Do's when preparing to play publicly:

1. Know your piece inside and out in ADVANCE. Have your piece(s) memorized atleast a month in advance of the date you are planning to perform. I still allow my students to take their music with them on stage as insurance but 9 times out of 10 if they have it memorized they never look up at the music. THEY KNOW IT! Waiting until the last minute to learn your piece is such a gamble. You are relying on kinesthetic memory of the piece and your fingers may remember where to go but if they don't.....You're out of luck!

2. Play your piece(s) for family and friends. Test your piece out at home in front of family, friends, stuffed animals. Make-believe you are on stage and practice performing the piece. Have a dress rehearsal and wear the clothes and shoes you plan to play in. Make sure you are comfortable and you can still play your piece without a zipper poking at you, or shoes being too uncomfortable. Remember people are there to hear your music not see a fashion show. Presentation is important but your musical presentation comes first!

3. If you make a mistake- KEEP GOING!!! More often than not, only you and your instructor will know you have made an error: missed a note, rushed through a passage, forgotten the dynamic contrast or forgotten to repeat. I am all for doing your best and playing the piece as practiced but sometimes no matter how much you have prepared; you cannot predict what will occur between you are your instrument. That is the beauty of live music. You are not a robot! So, don't stop. Don't try and correct it. There is no need to look at the audience and apologize or run off stage in terror. Just keep playing!!!! Keep your eyebrow's raised, your chin high and stay poised- you have prevailed!

4. Be rested and save the party for afterwards! It never fails that once a year at every recital, I see a student drag in the day of the recital barely able to hold their head up. Then the parents inform me that "Judy has just come from a sleepover and has had 4 hours of sleep." Guess how Judy played that day? I will leave it to your imagination. You need to make sure you get plenty of rest leading up to the day of the recital. It requires a lot of energy to get up there on stage and play your music for others. Save the birthday parties,skate nights and sleepovers for another night. You may have to skip the soccer game the day before or resist the urge to do fifty million errands that day. If you need to shop for the event, plan to complete those errands atleast a week before the recital. If you are the parent and your child is the performer, leave your child at home to rest and play their music. They will benefit more from the down time at home. REST IS ESSENTIAL! Especially the day before and the day of the performance.

5. Eat well, avoid sugar/caffeine & drink lots of water! Save the cocoa puffs, COKE, and sugary dessert for AFTER the recital!This sounds simple enough but many people do not realize the impact that food has on your performance. Make sure you are well-hydrated. Eat foods that you know will not upset your body. Be kind to your body. You are going to need to rely on it when you begin playing your piece!

6. Think positive and your experience will be positive! I have to keep a check on the little voice in my head that can sometimes tripp me up when I play. The little voice that says, "What if you make a mistake, what are you going to do then?" or "Well, if you mess up that is it for you! You're a piano teacher. You can't mess up! You are supposed to be perfect and if you make a mistake, you are a failure and you might as well apply for a job at Border's tomorrow." I have to turn those negative thoughts off and continue to tell myself that I know my piece and I will play beautifully. This will be a good experience and I trust myself! Find your mantra, and repeat it to yourself. Especially when those negative voices in your head start to take over. Drowned them out with positive thinking! You will create what you think! Luzviminda Keene


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