Your student has practiced all year, and she’s up next. She’s waiting in the wings, while the student ahead of her finishes a Beethoven piano piece. Her heart’s racing, and her hands are shaking. You’ve prepared her to play the recital piece, but have you prepared her to perform?
We believe that learning to perform is an important part of studying music. Not every music student studies to be a performer, but performances count and make your students quick thinkers and better musicians. Confidence, adaptability and know-how are skills students can use in music and the outside world.
So, how do you help your students achieve this? Begin by shelving the once- or twice-a-year recital. Instead, schedule as many shows as you can throughout the year, and encourage your students to take advantage of as many as possible! No audience and no venue is the same, so you need to make sure every showcase offers students a unique opportunity to perform. When students take advantage of all these performance opportunities, they add another layer to their musical abilities and are on their way to becoming confident performers.
Here are five unique performance opportunities to consider for your students.
1. Schedule student showcases at least once each season. At our school, we have two performance spaces. Our student showcases are formal, in a relaxed environment. They enable students to take the stage in a place they’re familiar with and in front of an audience full of parents and other students. Students can bring family and friends to watch them perform. Try scheduling the performance at different times of day and on different days of the week. Lunchtime or evening weekend concerts are fun.
2. Between in-house student showcases, schedule your students to participate in community events. This not only enables us to give back to the community but also gives students a chance to perform in an unfamiliar environment with different challenges, such as no real stage. Last year, one of our most unique performances was a halftime show for a youth football game. Several voice students took to the field to perform songs from a musical theater production. It was dark and cold, and there were hundreds in the audience. Students used wireless mics and sang for at least 500 people. It was unfamiliar territory and scary, but a great experience for them.
3. Take to the streets—literally. Involve your music school in a local street fair. Two of our favorites are the annual Ossining street fair and the Briarcliff Manor Halloween fest. Students invite family and friends to enjoy the show and perform for passersby. This can definitely take students out of their comfort zones. Weather plays a role and so does sound. There’s no backstage, and parents usually have to stand to watch, which means we keep the shows brief. Many community members see the kids and are excited by their performances. It’s a win-win for everyone.
4. Book students a gig of their own. Do you run a band workshop? Try scheduling a gig at a restaurant, or simply schedule your recital at a restaurant. Parents get to eat and drink while they watch the show, and your students will have a nice venue to perform in. Choose a theme for your showcase based on the restaurant. If it’s upscale, have students play classical music. For a jazz club, have students play jazz and blues. The possibilities are endless.
5. Find a great local stage to book your students’ year-end performance. We love our local library. It has a beautiful, state-of-the-art theater and plenty of parking. The acoustics are great, and there’s a superb Steinway piano for the piano students to play on.
There are so many creative ways to put your students on stage. Explore your community, and find the right venues for you.
Mike and Miriam Risko own Mike Risko Music School, a music lessons and retail operation in Ossining, New York.