piano recital

The Cafe Studio Showcase Experiment

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. Image source: Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/williamnyk/

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:

  1. Uncertainty over a different venue
  2. Uncertainty over playing a different instrument
  3. 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!"

Springtime Recital Musings

My student that is scheduled at this time is M.I.A. so I thought I'd take the opportunity to muse on my studio recital, held on Sunday. It was mostly a blur, although I remember snippets quite vividly:

  • Two young students became confused over the concert program. There were a few program changes, which threw them into a panic. They came running up to me during a performance in a tizzy. I had to sit with them to calm them down.
  • One young student had the crowd in the palm of his hand while he performed the James Bond theme. I saw heads bopping in time to the music and parents smiling. It was clear to many that he enjoyed being on stage and enjoyed the music.
  • One young girl who stomped up the stage and then did an adorable curtsey.
  • A few parents smiling (some out of sheer pleasure while others in sheer puzzlement) over a student who performed to a Technobeat accompaniment on CD.
  • One adult student who had a rough performance but returned afterwards to play through.
  • One student nailed her rhythm troublespots in a piece she has been struggling with for most of the year.

I did wind up performing by memory. It was my first public performance of Andaluza. There were a few odd notes and I got the rhythm mixed up in a few places, but I negotiated them smoothly. It still sounded like a Spanish dance. Memorizing the patterns and chords helped immensely.

I believe that most people miss the glitches, if handled right. Studying Iaido certainly helps as I don't think I flinched when something went off track.

I've come a long way since being the performer who always choked on stage. I hope that inspires some of my more timid students. If I could transform from an uncontrollable bundle of nerves to someone who can fake it through trouble spots, so can they.

At a teachers' meeting yesterday, several of us were discussing recital etiquette. I do have some recital etiquette pointers on my student/parent section on my website however, my colleagues and I agreed yesterday that this is an area to be explained for EACH performance to ensure that the performers have the least amount of distractions.

Here is an article on recital etiquette.

(c) 2006 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB Canada. All rights reserved.

Recital Musings

I used to get nervous for myself when performing. Now I get nervous for my students. I want them to do well, for themselves and for the loved ones who came to hear them. I hum along with each performance, bobbing and swaying to the music, just as my teachers did for me. When a student has a glitch, I stare at them, willing them to carry on and to get back into the piece. When a student does well, I find it difficult to contain my excitement.  


Sunday, we held our studio Winter Recital at McKenzie Towne Church. They have the best Young Chang piano I’ve played (but my heart still belongs to Yamaha). The venue is well laid out. The spacious foyer served as the “Snack & Chat” area after the recital. My mother and room-mate made use of the big kitchen to store and prepare the plates of goodies. Dad went straight to the well-stocked supply closet afterwards and found all he needed to tidy up the place. My brother found the perfect nook to set up shop for recording the recital.





We got to a late start because we didn’t have enough time to set up. I’ll have to put in a one-hour buffer next time.




Delegation works wonders. Students and parents helped hand out programs, put up signs, sort the programs that were mixed with another document, perform a sound check and serve as MC’s. They also brought non-perishable food items for the Calgary Food Bank and goodies for the Snack & Chat.




The recital went smoothly. Unfortunately, we had some last minute cancellations and no-shows but that didn’t affect the flow. All the students played well. Sure, they may be grumbling about some wrong notes or some wacky rhythms, but they all demonstrated that they could carry on with poise, a sense of humour and musical expression. That’s all I can ask for.



© 2006, Musespeak™, Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.