In "Drowning in Music Lesson Planning" (August 2012), I mentioned some of the ideas I had for studio performances. One was the idea of having a performance at the neighbourhood café in lieu of a winter recital.
Last week, we had our Studio Winter Showcase at Caffe Crema. I have heard back from all students and families who were part of the event, and have taken some time to reflect on the experience.
It was a good thing I confirmed my booking from August. My contact quit her job and didn't pass the details to the remaining staff. My worries intensified when I overheard the sound technician complain about a booking that fell through the cracks.
We got everything sorted out more or less. There was a bit of miscommunication about the layout. It was workable though, so not a big deal.
I booked the café from 1:00 - 4:00 PM. The afternoon was comprised of three sets, with 10-minute intermissions to allow people to come and go, place their orders and visit. One of my students came early to help with the set up. She also volunteered to emcee as well. Another student relieved her when she got ready to perform. Other students, along with their parents, helped out with setting out the programmes and packing up. That worked out beautifully.
Feedback has been overwhelming positive. Many enjoyed the cozy atmosphere of the cafe. They liked the "come and go" casualness and found that it was easier to get family and friends to come.
Hands down, everyone enjoyed the food and drinks. I am willing to bet $1,000 Maestro Bucks that some of them will become regular customers at Caffe Crema.
Everyone did admit to feeling more nervous than they do at recitals. This can be attributed to three factors:
- Uncertainty over a different venue
- Uncertainty over playing a different instrument
- Fear over playing in public
For most of my students, this was their first public performance. Studio recitals and examinations are private. Music festivals are semi-private. The idea of playing for a bunch of "random" people with absolutely no connection to my studio or their families was terrifying for some of them.
My very first performer of the day walked in with tears streaming down her face. She absolutely didn't want to play in public. For a fleeting moment, I thought, "Oh no! Should I have made it a private performance? Did I introduce this change too abruptly?"
Several of us gave her hugs and encouragement. She got up there and played her entire set of five songs. Her voice didn't betray how nervous she was when she introduced each piece. She was able to smile after all was said and done.
Was it a perfectly clean performance? No. Was it a fluent performance? Yes. Then that's all we can ask for.
I only heard one negative comment. That's bound to happen with any public performance. My knee-jerk reaction was to never have my students do anything like this again - to protect them from ever hearing such criticism. Later, I came to the realization that it's not my job as their teacher to shield them from criticism but rather, to help them deal with it - to use the constructive criticism and discard the rest.
Will I do something like this again as a performance opportunity for my students? Probably. Only two said they would rather not do it again and I have a couple of options for them. Would I go back to Caffe Crema? It's a definite possibility.
Most of them enjoyed performing on a different stage. They gave me variations on this theme, "I was more nervous than usual, but as you said not everyone was listening. I'll never see those random people again." That showed in their playing, enough for some of the "random people's" kids to inch closer to the action. Clear enough for my friend and fellow teacher, Sharon Fast to say, "It's great to see what other teachers are doing in their studios and you are really bringing out the creativity in those kids! And they really seem to enjoy music making!"