All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Music Recitals


Break out the flip flops and gardening gloves – today marks the the first day of Spring!  Which also means: teachers, it’s time to start planning your Spring recital!

Planning the perfect recital takes time and resources, but the benefits to everyone involved can be extremely rewarding.  As teachers, you can earn recognition from parents and the community for going above and beyond.  Many of our TakeLessons teachers have collaborated with other instructors in the area for recitals, which can be a great way to network.

Students can experience the joy of performing in front of an audience of friends and family, and learn to overcome stage fright in the process.  The memory of a successful (and fun!) recital can last a lifetime, and do wonders for their confidence.  And parents, of course, can see their child’s progress and how much fun they’re having!

The skills that students can gain by performing even translate into real life lessons – even if their future career path doesn’t involve music.  Here are just a few examples, as originally published on the Park Slope Music Lessons website:

Recitals are like so many things in life. It’s a due date when you need to really know something well and you need to show it in public, in this case 100 of your friends, family members and peers. Think of the times when you had to present a paper or a case or a sales pitch at a specific time and day. The recital is preparation for that. It’s a deadline.

Discipline and Mastery
Preparing for the recital is also like life. The discipline required to learn, memorize and perform the pieces is the same discipline you use when you are in college working on a term paper, at your job preparing the big Powerpoint presentation to your clients, presenting your court case to the judge and jury and so on. There’s a level of mastery that needs to be achieved in a recital. And music lessons culminating in a recital is a training ground for discipline on the road to mastery.  Even better to start at such an early age!

Mistakes happen. In fact, how often do things go exactly the way you want them to? Almost never. Your goal is to minimize them. But you can never achieve 100% perfection. To play like a machine is completely useless. It’s the mistakes that make you sound human and gives you unique expression. As described in a recent NY Times article about what makes music so expressive, researcher Daniel J. Levitin at McGill University and Edward W. Large at Florida Atlantic University recorded a concert pianist performing a Chopin etude analyzing it for speed, rhythm, loudness and softness. They then recreated the performance with a computer stripping it of any human variances, in other words, making it more perfect. They then scanned the brains of listeners as they listened. The results? Perfection is boring.

Another thing discovered by these researchers is that music can give us emotional hits by creating a subtle change from a pattern. Students should be gaining an understanding of the structure lying underneath the piece of music they are working on. Whether it’s the grand scheme of section A followed by section B, or even just how the notes of one measure actually are spelling out an F chord. It’s the same in real life. There’s an order and structure to how things are put together, whether it’s a sandwich, a computer program, a resume or a social network.

Possibly the best part of a recital is the immediate feedback from the audience. There’s no waiting around for an acceptance letter in the mail; if you did well, you know it right now! And if not so well, then you know that too.  Students should learn to reflect back on their performance, and recognize what they did great at and what they need to work on.  Recitals are a safe space, since the audience will always be rooting for you – but if you make a few mistakes, it really doesn’t matter as long as you did your best. There’s always the next recital!

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Special thanks to Los Angeles instructor Kelly K. for sending us great pictures from her own holiday recital!

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