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Ten tips for successful recitals

Updated: Apr 3

With the end of the year only a couple of months away, many teachers are organizing their student end-of-year recitals. Here are a few ideas you might like to try for your recitals AND a few options if you’re looking for an alternative activity.

1. Have a theme – does your community celebrate Christmas, Halloween or mid-Autumn Festival? Recitals can be at any time of the year, so maybe consider centering your recital around a festival, with appropriate decorations and snacks afterwards. Quite a few teachers have a Christmas recital and call it “Cookies and Carols” or maybe you could try a “Halloween Special”?

2. Boost confidence – for very shy students and those lacking confidence, let them play a very easy piece so they feel more assured of performing the music well. Or perhaps offer them the option to play a duet with you or another student, rather than a solo.

3. Power Performance – invite the students to dress up as a superhero for the recital. Older students may prefer just a simple cape, but the younger students may want to go the whole way with a costume and face paint or a mask. Students can even choose a superhero name to perform under. Another option is the Pyjama/Pajama Performance, where not only the kids but also their parents are asked to come in PJs; great for a fun and relaxed ambience.

4. Games party – rather than a formal recital, have you tried a games party? This is more casual than a recital and fun for the students, with games interspersed between performances. A great game for this is “Busted” or find more ideas in “Fun & Games for Music Lessons”. If you have a large number of students, you may want to divide them into smaller groups. Games parties are fun, and they are also a great way for your students to form new friendships.

5. Stay close - sitting near your students at the recital can be very reassuring, especially for those feeling nervous. The students are used to having you sit near them in lessons, so try this at your recital so they don’t feel they are there alone.

6. Popcorn and Play - one way to reduce the stress of a live performance (for both the students and you!) is to have a pre-recorded video concert. You can then have an in-person viewing where the students and parents all have boxes of popcorn to eat as they watch the “movies” of the performances. This can also be done as an online viewing with the students/parents watching from home with their popcorn.

7. Other goals - If the thought of any sort of recital stresses you, think of alternative performance goals. Could your students enter in a local eisteddfod instead? Could they perform at their school music class or assembly? Could they enter in a virtual competition? There are lots of options; one I’ve found works really well is performing at a local nursing home or retirement village – the older folk love to hear children play and the children can see how much enjoyment their music brings to the very appreciative audience.

8. Thank you gifts – some teachers give certificates and special awards at their recitals, others do not. In any case it’s always appreciated if the students receive a small “thank you” gift for their performance. This does not need to be expensive, for example a cookie or a music themed eraser. Many teachers like to have an afternoon tea after the performance, with parents each bringing a small plate of food. If you love baking, you may want to provide the food yourself; I’ve seen some amazing photos on FB of music themed cookies and cupcakes!

9. Move outdoors – if your recital is at a time of year when weather permits, try having your recital outdoors. This may not be feasible for piano recitals unless you’re okay with electric keyboards, but for portable instruments, being outdoors can create a lovely, relaxed atmosphere. If you have a backyard this is a great venue, or maybe if your front porch is large, you could have the recital there. A local park is another option. Just remember if performing outdoors to bring clothes pegs or clips to keep music pages from blowing in the wind.

10. Just listen – if students really don’t want to play and their parents feel it’s better for them not to play, invite them to come and listen to the recital. Or maybe they could help you hand out gift bags, or another little job? This way they are still included and might gain more confidence for the next recital.


Some teachers feel all students should participate in recitals, as facing anxiety or fear may help to build confidence. There are many situations in life where we have to do something difficult and perhaps need a little encouragement to follow through. If we encourage our students that it’s fun to share their music, most will be happy to do so. On the other hand, if a student feels very anxious, forcing them to play in a recital could lead to them quitting lessons. The most important thing is that our students play for their own enjoyment, they may not all want to perform for others.

The above suggestions are just a few ways to make your recitals enjoyable and manageable, or maybe you’ll consider some of the options given for alternatives to recitals. Please feel free to share in the comments what works for you.

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