Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Recital Week: To Memorize or Not To Memorize?

Today I'd like to share my thoughts on where memorization stands on my priority list as I prepare my students for a recital. I grew up with a very strict teacher who insisted that we always memorize our music for recitals. Performing with the music wasn't even an option. I know that opinions about memorization among pedagogical circles have been many and varied through the years, and there is definitely merit to memorization! But while I firmly believe that to be the case, I don't always insist on my students having their music memorized for a recital.

My number one goal when hosting a studio recital is to create a positive experience for each child involved. I want them to look forward to performing and begin to grasp the joy we experience through sharing our music. And whether this involves music or no music is a lesser concern to me.

Every student has strengths and weaknesses. Some students memorize amazingly well, while others can struggle for months to memorize a simple piece. This does not mean that they are an inept musician, and I don't want a student who has trouble memorizing to experience extra anxiety about a performance because I insist on making them play without music.

My students do memorize pieces throughout the term, and I try to encourage memorization as much as possible. While some students will exhibit a natural tendency to memorize more quickly than others, this is a skill that can be developed over time, and all my students need to learn how to go about memorizing. My past few practice incentive programs have included rewards to students for pieces they memorize, and that's been a huge encouragement to students to try and develop their skills in memorization.

To cut down on the pressure, even though my students perform multiple pieces for the recital, they'll usually do one solo piece (memorized) and one duet with me (non-memorized). I feel like that relieves a bit of the stress.

How strict are you about having your students memorize recital music? Any tips or tricks you've used to help your students memorize over the years that have worked well?

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