Participating in a recital or other musical performance is a really huge accomplishment and unique occasion if we all stop and think about it. The student is bringing one of the most beautiful art forms to life, and sharing it live, an event that is slowly disappearing as the digital formats are so easily accessible. No matter how good the quality of digital formats, the benefits of live music for both the performer and the audience can never be replaced (more on that later).
For now, let’s look at how a student can prepare for these performance opportunities, in order to have the most enjoyable and positive experience.
Be Aware of How the Child Feels
Imagine your name being called as you anticipate going on stage to perform. Most of the time, we are unaware of how sensitive a student is as they may not reveal everything they are feeling. The mind has two parts that play on the performer. One that is conscious and the other that is not. In either case, they are alone on the stage, it’s quiet, and all eyes and ears are on them. In the end we hope that the experience is positive, and they come away having gained more confidence and poise.
Here are some practice suggestions:
Talk to Your Student: Remind your child that they are not alone. They have a team behind them, the teacher and the parents. This will give your child the support and lift they need to bring the music to others. They will begin to build self-reliance and ask themselves how they did, regardless of the audience or judges’ response. This is a skill they can take with them throughout life.
History: Do a little research about the piece your studying. Who is the composer and when did he sit down and write this music? What did the composer intend to communicate?
Musical Expression: Thinking about your research, what is the feeling and meaning of your piece? Ask yourself how you would like to practice and interpret the music.
Technical Mastery of your Piece: It is essential to practice slowly and accurately at first. Your brain is very busy forming new connections as you play! Focus on the difficult areas in chunks (one or two measures at a time) rather than returning to the beginning each time! Then, put the small chunks together, as if your building a house brick by brick!
Memorizing: Memorizing is an important goal of performance. It is important to memorize at different levels and not just by muscle memory. Practice and memorize the overall structure, the chords, harmonies, key changes etc. You want to be able to visualize the music in your head. Using anchors is an essential strategy for memorizing and will give you the confidence you need when performing.
Record your Playing: While you are working on a piece, record yourself so you can hear and make observations. Listen carefully to the aesthetic and technical elements and ask yourself how you are doing.
Mock Performance: Put on a mock performance for family or friends, people you feel comfortable with. Before you sit down to play, announce the title and composer, and what the piece means to you. This will engage the audience with what you are about to share.
Remember, what's most important is what you love about the music and how it inspires you!