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Most of the time, my student recitals come together with everyone ready, excited and a little nervous, all at the same time.  One recital, however, was different.

At first, things proceeded as usual:  the space was reserved and paid for; arrangements were made to have the piano tuned; the date was confirmed with the students; the programs were printed; and the parents would provide refreshments.

The week before the recital, my students weren’t ready!

Has this happened in your studio?  What did you do?

I gave the situation a lot of thought, and then had to make a decision.  The most important consideration was the students.  Playing for each other is so important!  Everyone makes on-the-spot progress after hearing feedback from other kids.

I didn’t want to wait, eliminating the date.  (My student recitals are typically about every six months.)  Also, having paid for the space (which was difficult to nail down), the piano tuning, and the programs, I didn’t want to lose the money.

After thinking about all the things I didn’t want to happen, a brainstorm hit. 

What if the kids played for each other on the designated date, but their parents weren’t invited?

Every kid loved the idea.  No one would have to worry about adults being around when they weren’t ready, and it might even be fun!  (The refreshments were still on.  It’s never a good idea to cancel the refreshments.)

So that’s what we did.  I felt like I had a secret conspiracy going with my students!  Nobody had to dress up.  Everybody could use the music.  They didn’t have to be perfect.  And no one would criticize them.  What’s not to like?

During the first piece on “recital” day, I had another brainstorm.

Rather than telling each participant what I thought, what if I asked questions of the group instead?  The other kids could all talk, and they would probably listen better.

It worked!  In fact, it worked so well, I’d do it again in a second.

I just sat back, relaxed, and asked whether everyone had heard fast or slow playing, loud or soft, happy or sad, which hand had played the melody, etc., etc.  A big part of not being ready meant that the composer’s dynamics weren’t in the playing yet, the melody and accompaniment were the same, and most of the music was at the easiest tempo for the kid.  So those kinds of basic questions were appropriate.

When another kid talks about dynamics and tempo, the one playing hears what they say.  Sometimes when I say something, a child will respond with something like, “Of course you can do it.  You’re a grownup!  You’re expecting me to do that?”

When another child said they heard a loud, peppy piece, for example, the performer corrected his or her playing so fast (to softer and slower) I almost didn’t believe it!

So, after seeing instant results in that “recital,” I am now an unwavering advocate of group lessons.  If you haven’t tried it, try it once.  You’ll be surprised.

Have you had student recitals that derailed?  How did you handle the situation?

Please share your experiences in the comment section below!

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