Performing for others is a valuable part of the music lesson experience. It teaches us performance skills which we can apply to other areas such as public speaking, acting and debates, and it builds our confidence in our playing. Plus it gives us an opportunity to pat ourselves on the back and acknowledge what we’ve achieved.
So, with that in mind, should we require piano recital participation in our studios?
Nope. End of post. 😜
Just kidding, of course. But I’m not going to lie to you, I am biased in this area. If you’re looking for a balanced view you should probably look elsewhere. Nevertheless, let me explain my reasoning for so strongly opposing the idea of a recital requirement.
Pros(ish) of a Recital Participation Requirement
Better Participation Rates
Well, this is the obvious one. If we require piano recital participation from our students we should get higher rates of participation. Shouldn’t we? 🤔
Maybe. But, really? If a family isn’t free on the recital date then I don’t understand how you can actually enforce their attendance. If it’s Aunt Margaret’s 100th birthday then you’re going to have to either move the recital date (risking a clash with something that’s important to another studio family) or just accept that they can’t come and break your policy.
Maintaining High Standards
In some studios, recitals are a point of pride. Teachers insist on a high-performance standard and polish for each concert and this is a big part of what makes their studio special. I get that, I really do.
I also understand how requiring recital participation, therefore, might seem appealing, because it could discourage those who aren’t serious about their studies from staying in/joining your studio. I think it’s great that you want your studio to stand for something.
But I don’t think a requirement is the way to do that. An expectation, perhaps, but not a rule. We want our students to want to play in our recitals (see the second con below) and to be excited to meet your expectations of performance standards.
Cons of a Requiring Recital Participation
Too Black and White
To me, putting anything like recitals or practice in your policies just doesn’t sit well. These things are not all-or-nothing, black-and-white issues. They are not like payment policies (either you pay on time or you don’t) or punctuality (either you’re on time or you’re late.) They are nuanced and depend on so many factors.
I’m not saying that teachers who have recitals participation in their policies are not going to show some grace with a student who has anxiety issues…but why put things in your policies in the first place if they’re subject to so many variables?
Sends the Wrong Message
One of my favourite books I’ve read in the last few years is called Punished by Rewards and, to me, the idea of a recital requirement policy smacks of some of the lessons from that book. When we require recitals, or even give presents and prizes for recital participation, we’re telling our students that this is something yucky. We’re showing them that we believe they need a bribe or a rule in order to participate in a studio concert.
Is that the right lesson to send?
Surely not! Recitals are the reward. Playing for others and sharing the music we’ve learnt with them should be a joy, not a chore.
Do you have a piano performance requirement in your policies?
Has this article swayed you at all, or are you sticking like a Medjool date? Let me know what you think about the idea of recital requirements in the comments below or in our Facebook group.