All about… Student Concerts

Why have them?

piano pupil concertsStudent concerts should be a joyful celebration of music and everyone’s achievements. They provide a real motivator for pupils to practise, and a wonderful opportunity for them to make friends and bond within your pupil group. So set them up to enjoy the whole occasion, succeed themselves, and support everyone else.

A particularly enjoyable way to begin is to have every pupil involved in playing a duet or trio (perhaps with you or a fellow pupil) before they play their solo, though playing on their own could be optional. When deciding with whom to pair your pupils, practical considerations will probably have to come first, meaning that you will be pairing or grouping together pupils who come for lessons one after the other. This can be very interesting and offer a wealth of opportunity to explore repertoire where one part is harder than the other (e.g. teacher-pupil duets played by two pupils), or where some pupils make their own parts more challenging by improvising with them. You may also consider locality and friendship groups, which could involve parents in making plans to get pupils together for home practices.

Practising performing

It is also important to arrange practice performances. These not only help pupils get used to performing, but they give them an opportunity to discover any weaknesses which may not normally show up, with enough time to strengthen them before the big day. They also help ensure that pupils put in some serious practice time earlier than they might otherwise!

Practice performances could be to the following or preceding pupil in overlapping lesson times (along with the duet rehearsal), and, with parental support, they could be to family and friends at home. You might also be able to organise ‘group practice performance lessons’ (for a small extra fee?) which, in addition to providing the performance opportunity, help your pupils develop the all-important sense of mutual support and appreciation. It may also be worth finding out whether there are any local piano meet-ups that your students can join in with.

piano trio student concert

A positive environment

In this spirit, practice and real pupil performances tend to work best if everyone follows the “safe-circle” rules: everyone only feels, thinks and says supportive and appreciative things about the performance.

As you know from your own experience, the performer is likely to be dwelling on what didn’t go as well as hoped, rather than what did, and so their need is to hear what others enjoyed about their performance, to help restore their confidence and motivate them to continue working.

Planning the order of the performances also needs care if everyone is to feel confident and maintain their self-respect. Rather than organising the concert in age or ability order, especially if some of the younger pupils are more able than the older ones, the programme could be decided by ‘lucky dip’: every pupil could pick a number out of a pot the week before and you could create a programme based on that numbering (perhaps editing it a little, as would work best). Then at the concert, you could explain how the order was decided and take that opportunity to tell the audience how much you appreciate and enjoy teaching all of your pupils, with all of their different musical interests, aims and ambitions.

Should the teacher also perform?

Deciding whether or not to perform yourself is another thing to consider: It may be a wonderful opportunity for your pupils and their parents to learn and hear more about your work as a professional, but your first requirement is to be 100% supportive of your pupils, however they are feeling, and whatever happens in their performances. So you might not have the emotional space and stamina to do that as well as perform a solo. But perhaps you could play with your pupils, especially the less experienced ones, in teacher-pupil duets and trios, making their simpler offerings sound magical, and inspiring an ever-deeper love of making music.

When and where?

public pianoIn contrast to the usual venues you might consider, hosting your student concert somewhere a little different can also heighten the sense of occasion. For example, although an informal setting, many shopping centres display pianos which are free for public use and are also a great way to advertise your teaching business. Ensure that any background music is switched off, the piano is tuned and there are some seats nearby for performers and their families; something like this can be a much more relaxing experience for nervous performers, particularly when silence is usually expected at concerts and the audience stares back at your from rows of seats!

You can also motivate your students to do this themselves by setting them a challenge to play one local public piano, and provide them with a list of the options. Or extend to a summer challenge – can you play 3 public pianos during the long holidays?

School assemblies can also be ideal as they are during school hours, and can be relatively straightforward to set up if you work in the school. If not, encourage your students to ask if they can perform either to the Head, or in assembly to the rest of the school.

Finally, you and your students can perform to friends and family around the world with Facebook’s ‘live’ function: this is an incredible way to connect with people who wouldn’t usually be able to hear your performances, and is very easy to set up!

So remember…

All student concerts should be:

  • Fun
  • Supportive
  • An opportunity to share music!

– Lucinda Mackworth-Young, Director of The Piano Teachers’ Course UK

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