Monday, May 16, 2011

Recital Week: Picking Repertoire for the Recital

If I haven't hinted at this enough already, this week is recital week! In honor of this event, I'm going to be posting each day this week on various aspects of what it means to prepare for a studio recital as the teacher. There are so many topics to choose from that I know I won't even scratch the surface, but I hope to get some good discussion going here on the topics I address. Please feel free to add your comments and suggestions to each post topic.

I'd like to start the week off discussing repertoire selections for an upcoming recital. What's the best way to pick music that will yield a successful performance? How can you pick successful, yet enjoyable performance pieces for each student? How much should a teacher be involved in the repertoire selection?

When it comes time to picking our recital pieces, I've discovered that there are often discrepancies between what a student wants to perform and what they will be able to perform well. Anybody else shared this experience?! For example, when we discuss recital music I've had students show me a piece in one of their books that they haven't even learned yet but want to play for the recital! That's when we as teachers have to step in and provide some guidance and help our students make wise choices.

My primary goal in structuring a recital and selecting the music is choosing pieces that a student can feel 100% confident playing. I want my students to have positive performance experiences as much as possible.

The first step we take when looking at possible repertoire is the students' memory list. Generally, these will be the pieces that the student most enjoyed playing, since they were willing to work on it for a longer period of time and take the extra step of memorization. And as a teacher, I can usually be comfortable with allowing a student to pick pretty much any of the pieces on that list. This works for any level of student since my youngest students learn songs by rote in addition to the lesson material.

How involved I get in the decision-making process varies from student to student. Some kids needs a lot more help- a glance at the memory list yields only a blank look and an, "I dunno" when I ask them to tell me which piece was their favorite! For those type of students, I generally end up making the decision for them. Other students have a very clear idea of just what they want to play, and will even make their decisions earlier in the piano term as they're learning the song. If that happens, we'll make a little note that this piece is a recital definite.

Throughout each term, I also make mental notes to myself of which pieces each student performed well and seemed to enjoy, and if a student is having trouble making a decision I'll step in and offer a few suggestions.

Of course, despite my best attempts at guidance and organization, there are always the few who are just impossible to work with when it comes to recital music. They don't have any ideas, when I make suggestions they all get shot down, and when we try to arrive at a consensus in lessons they're non-committal. Those are the students that give me recital-planning headaches ;) We, of course, eventually decide on music, but it's a long, hard road to get there!

Those are just a few of my thoughts on making repertoire selections for a recital. I'd love to hear any nuggets of wisdom you may have picked up in your teaching experience that have worked well when deciding on repertoire for your students.

Tomorrow I'll be discussing memorization of recital pieces, so stay tuned!

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