VMT042: How to craft the perfect recital welcome speech


Do you get nervous for your recital welcome speech? This is many music teachers’ least favourite part of running a studio concert. Get step-by-step tips for planning out your speech in this episode and relieve your nerves!

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You’re listening to Episode 42 of the vibrant music teaching podcast. I’m Nicola Cantan and in this show we’re talking about the dreaded recital or welcome speech.

Hey beautiful teachers. It is the start of recital season. Are you ready? Are you excited? Are you terrified? Are you a bit overwhelmed? I wanted to dive in today and talk about recital welcomes speeches because I’ve actually talked through a lot of parts of the recital and the planning in the past on this podcast. We did that in Episode 20 and 21 but what I didn’t really touch upon was what you say at a recital and I know for many teachers this is the most nerve wracking part. Some teachers I find are extremely comfortable performing music in front of others but ask them to say a few words and they are terrified and I do get it. I probably get more nervous for performing than for speaking but I do get nervous for both and I used too much much more so before I did a lot more public speaking and I know that public speaking is actually one of the number one fears in the US at least that’s where the data is collected. But I suspect in Europe as well people are just terrified to speak up in front of other people and it is scary it can be scary especially if you don’t know what it is you’re supposed to be saying or you don’t have a clear game plan or you feel like you need to give some huge speech and say something incredibly eloquent and poignant and I don’t think that you do. I think it’s best kept simple but I wanted to take this podcast episode just to run you through what I think are the essentials so you can make yourself a little list and some nice to have.

If you feel like jazzing up your speech and if you’re a bit more of a confident speaker or you just feel like you want to say some extra words. OK so let’s dive right in with the essentials. The first essential is very basic. The toilets and the exits. I think it’s important to make those clear. I just explain where the bathrooms are and where the exits are. You don’t need to make some big emergency exit declaration in case unless you do need to do that for insurance purposes or anything like that but do make it clear where people can step out and where the exits are and where the closest doors are and where the closest bathroom is. Especially because you’re probably going to have younger siblings attending. So even if you don’t each tiny little students like I do you’ll still probably have some little ones attending with their families at the event and they need to be able to step out go to the bathroom go outside and have a little cry or whatever is happening. I have a little bit of a tantrum if that’s what’s happening so make it clear where the exits are and where the toilets are. I also like to mention just to sort of lay everything out for people who haven’t attended a lot of concerts or maybe just don’t think things through.

I always mention that it would be best if you stepped out during applause if possible recital pieces student pieces are usually pretty short. Right. So you can generally wait a minute to be able to step out and unless a child is actually roaring crying is preferable that people wait step out during the applause and step back in during the applause if they just need to go to the bathroom or something. And I always mention at this point that these young students can be easily distracted for some of them it’s their first recital ever. Put that reminder in there just to emphasize that yes they will be easily distracted although I’ve done my best to prepare them of course but we need to show them kindness and compassion and make sure not to distract them unnecessarily so always step out during the applause. I’m saying this in a more verbose way right here to explain it to you but you literally can just say it like that if you need to step by step out during the applause so we don’t disturb any of the performers as some of them are performing for the very first time and they might get easily distracted. Just a simple sentence like that. The next thing that I think is essential in most cases is to mention your program and anything about the running order or how the recital is actually going to run.

So hopefully you’ve prepared your students before the big day of how it’s going to work but their kids a lot of them are kids anyway and it’s best if the parents know what’s going on or whoever is sitting with them knows what’s going on too.

So I generally mention that they can follow along with the program. That’s the order we’re going in and point out where the programs are in case anyone missed grabbing one on the way in and in my recitals I don’t have students announce their pieces and I don’t announce them either we just run in order so I explain that we’ll just be going one after the other and if students can please come up at the end when the applause is for the previous performer please just can’t make your way up to the piano and follow along with the program. So once you announce that but that’s how that’s running it’s useful because parents can read the program more easily and more easily track where you are and they can warn their kiddo when it’s coming up to their performance time or when they should go to the piano. Of course if someone doesn’t immediately stand up I just give them a little nod or stand up and then announce them briefly to get them to come up. But I prefer when students just roll one after the other. I think it runs smoother. I think announcing is pretty unnecessary if we will have a program. Maybe you like that tradition and you kept it and that’s fine.

But for me I prefer just performances. So we run in order and there’s no need for me to be announcing different students if we have a program to follow. So those are my first three announcements I’ve got the toilets and exits. Quick mention of stepping out during the applause if possible and a note about how it’s going to run so that parents can help their child to arrive at the piano on time. Then you will need to mention phones of course and to remind people to put them on silent. You used to ask people to switch them off. Nobody’s willing to do that anymore so I just asked them to put it on silent and then with the phones.

I also mention that we are taking photos and videos so please feel free to sit back and enjoy the performance without the need to take photos and videos because I will do that afterwards. I’m not actually banning parents from taking their own photos. That’s fine some of them do but I just like to give them that reassurance that yes we are filming it. Yes I will share it with you afterwards and my husband is there taking photos. He’s my resident photographer who is actually a chef. He does his best and he is moving around and he can take closer up photos than they can anyway. And of course the video setup is right beside the piano versus them holding up an iPad which is miles away. I mean it’s not anymore helpful. So I do like to give them that little bit of reassurance and encouragement just watch their child just actually sit there and absorb what’s going on rather than feeling like they need to hold up the iPad in front of their face. Okay if they do like I say they’re not banned but I do encourage them not to get in other people’s way. So that’s nearly it. The last one is just to announce the first performer. This is all you have to do. These are the essentials.

So if you’re a nervous take note of any of my list of 6 items there that are relevant to you maybe you don’t need to mention photos or videos maybe you don’t need to remember it mentioned the running order either. So just a quick note about the toilets the exit stepping out during the applause. Maybe the running order. Maybe the photos and videos. Definitely the phones and then an the first performer and off you go.

It doesn’t have to be harder than that. If you’re a nervous speaker that is it. Just do that. It’s fine. Give her worn a smile if you can manage that welcome them. Make those few announcements and then announce the first performer and what they’re going to be playing and that’s it. And start off the applause of course as you walk back to your seat. So if you want to take it a bit further than that. I have a list of some nice to haves for you first. Nice to have is to do a quick summary of the year. This can be in several different ways. Just to mention a couple of the fun projects you did during the year or two mentioned the number of pieces if it’s impressive or some of the things your students achieve such a great exam results. Great marks and a great placing in a competition or that they played in such and such a festival or that you’ve heard students playing in all sorts of public spaces as their idea about that kind of thing. Just a couple of mentions it doesn’t have to be everything but if you are willing to spend that extra time I think it’s worth it to highlight those things to parents and students who have maybe forgotten about them as they happened during the year and the recital is normally happening in a lead up to reinforcement time for a lot of studios. So if you are going to be sending out new higher fees possibly or asking students to re enroll for a new year it’s good to have that summary.

And it’s also just good for your sense of pride in your studio and your students to feel like oh my gosh we did do all that this year. That is cool. The other thing you might want to mention is a note about how impressive it is to perform for others. This is good to put in there just to remind parents and other adults attending that it’s not easy to get up and play for others. I think sometimes they can write this off as oh they’re kids they can do it and they don’t even really give it a second thought because kids are just expected to do this but it’s not easy. It is nerve racking. Some kids get very nervous and they do it anyway and that’s super brave and it’s awesome and it’s a great experience for them to have at this young age and putting a little bit of a mention of that experience that the students are having in there can help to quell some of those possible leaving early. Or you know parents are not particularly enthusiastic with implores or if they seem a bit bored or whatever. Hopefully they won’t be bored. But at the same time it’s good to have that mention in there just put them in their shoes like imagine you were getting up here and playing in front of this crowd.

It’s intimidating. So let’s give them some love. Basically the other thing you might want to do is have some fun teasers of what in the actual recital. So to help people look forward to what’s coming up. I normally mention that we’re going to have lots of different types of pieces mentioned some of the genres that we’re going to have as well as the fact that we’ll have ensemble pieces. And if you are going to have anything extra special like some fun element that you’ve included or mentioned when that’s coming up maybe it’s the finale. And just give people a taste of what’s to come during the concert. Another thing you might like to mention at this stage although I often like to do this at the end so it can be done in either spot is to thank parents for their help with practice. It’s a good opportunity when you have all the parents together. Yes you can do this in an email but you don’t really ever get an opportunity face to face to say this otherwise to parents unless you do it one on one. But some parents we don’t see it all right but they’re there in the background helping with practice structuring it at home hopefully and supporting their child and taking them to lessons and all of that stuff. So it’s lovely to just put in a quick thank you to them. Like I say I usually do this at the end but it’s also great to do at the start if you want to leave the end free of any speaking obligations for you.

And then the final thing you might like to include is just general appreciation comments. So thanks for being part of our studio. Thank you for choosing me to be a teacher of your child that kind of thing that you might want to put in your speech and that’s it. So you’ve got some essentials you’ve got some nice to haves maybe you include a couple of those but most of all keep it simple. Do not try and say everything under the sun don’t try and make it last 10 minutes if you don’t want it to my recital welcome speech is probably usually two minutes and I don’t think it even has to be that I think I’m going to be 30 seconds. If you think back to when you were a child and you attended these sorts of events piano recitals school functions whatever. What was your least favorite part. It was the adult blabbering on and I’m sorry but they do a lot of principals and teachers and all sorts of people at these occasions do blab on and if it’s an important speech and they’re saying something interesting and the occasion is for the parents and the children are just attending as well then that’s fine because that’s for the parents but my recital is not for the parents.

Yes they are coming along to celebrate but it’s for the students. I consider my recital I call it the spring celebration and I’ll actually leave a link where to a Facebook video on the show notes page where I talked more about this idea of making your recital a celebration. So that’s the show no direct vibrantmusicteaching.com/42 for this episode. So go over there to get the link to that Facebook Live video that I recorded about my celebratory approach to recitals but that’s basically how I see it.

It’s a celebration of the students and all that they’ve achieved in the past year and the commitment that they put into lessons and how awesome they are.

You know I want to celebrate them I think they’re amazing. So if I consider that the recital is for my students it’s their celebration it’s their party then what am I doing giving a giant speech that children hate they hate it they like a quick mention of how fabulous they are. They hate more than that so don’t make it longer than you have to do it honestly is not necessary. It’s not what parents are there for and it’s not what the kids are. Therefore for sure to keep it simple keep it short mentioned the essentials and couple of the nice to have if you like and then finish it at and announce the first performer and step away and just enjoy. If you’re going to be performing yourself of course at the start then you’ll be knighting yourself if you are performing a recital there’s always this debate of whether we should and whether we should do it at the end or at the beginning. I prefer the beginning for two reasons. Number one is I do not want to be thinking about my own performance for an entire length recital. So that’s a selfish reason I would hate that I am a nervous performer. I don’t want to be having to be distracted by the fact that I have to remember to do such and such or that I might trip up or whatever for the entire recital.

If I’m gonna play I’m going to do it first. For that reason the other reason is I simply don’t want to be the finale to the recital. I feel like that. Well that’s fine if you approach it that way but for me that sends this message that I’m the main attraction or something. Maybe this is just my introverted nature talking but I don’t want to be the star attraction. I want my students to be. So I want to save that last spot for my most advanced student or a student performing something particularly spectacular or maybe an ensemble piece that makes a big impact. I want them to have all the glory at the end because people remember experiences much more clearly the ends of experiences than the beginning. And I prefer them to forget about my reverence and remember my fabulous students. Right. So that’s just a quick side note about that. Now I wanted to quickly mention as well the ending I said earlier that I tend to thank parents at the end. So at the very end of the recital I keep it even shorter than my beginning of the recital speech. I simply thank everyone for coming. Once more I ask people to do one more round of applause for all the performers might be a bit cheesy but I think it’s justified.

So I tell you how fabulous it was and how I think we should do one more round of applause for everyone who got up and performed because it’s awesome that they’re doing that. And then I have one round of applause usually for the parents to thank them for everything they do to support or not even just the parents just everyone in the room generally thanked them for what they do to support these students in learning music and practicing and in getting up here to perform today. And that’s it. After that I’ll just announce ask people to stay for the group photo if they’re happy to be in the group photo that all the kids come up to the front to take that. Now I think that’s an important step if you want to have a group photo. I like to do it at the end and if you try to gather everyone without making an announcement for parents to push them in this direction then it won’t happen. So I ask parents two children to step up to the front if they’re willing to be in the group photo and they all come up to the front. If you’re having refreshments Of course you announce that here.

So in my January content we do have refreshments and I just say that if you have a few minutes please stick around. I’d love to stay and chat and those biscuits and juice in the next room you have some big fancy reception of course announced that. So that’s the ending. And that’s everything you need for your recital speeches. I wanted to give you a few quick tips though before I let you go about dealing with those nerves. So if you are particularly nervous speaker I have a few tips for you.

I certainly used to be a lot more nervous speaking than I am these days. I still get nervous now going to say it goes away but it does get easier. The first thing is just to simply write some bullet points for yourself. So if you want to remember to mention the four essentials that you decided on from the start of this episode just write them down bullet points in a list and I actually like to just put this on the back of my programs I always have a copy of the program. That is definitely mine. It’s from the online is only one with a printing error in it actually where I’ve printed it on the wrong side or upside down or something on the first go and that’s now my program because everything is still in the right order. And on that on the back I’ll generally have written my first few bullet points for what I want to say there’s anything in particular I want to mention.

So just write down a couple of bullet points please do not try to script it it is not helpful in any form of speech to actually script it out. It might feel comforting to you at the time but what’s going to happen is if you tried to read it it’ll look like you’re reading which isn’t great especially if you’re trying to give a heartfelt thanks to parents and you’re reading it I hope it doesn’t feel very heartfelt and if you’re a nervous speaker it will make you sound more nervous it won’t make you sound less and the other thing that you might do in terms of scripting it is not to actually write out the script but to think the script.

In other words you have your bullet points and you practice several times and you sort of decide what you want to say through that process. And I wouldn’t advise that either because I find that if I tried to do it that way. Basically I’m trying to remember it too hard to come up with just a natural scientist I would have been better off with just coming up a natural sentence on the spot because you’ll trip yourself up basically if you make a quote unquote mistake about what you intended to say. So actually listened to a book a while back that was about lessons learned. I can remember the name of the book right now but it was lessons learned from from TED speakers basically and their book was written by the organizers of Ted. And so they talked about the best approach for this type of speech and they did advise. Basically memorizing your speech. But they warned against this thing called the uncanny valley which is basically where you in the context of speaking it’s where it almost is memorized but it didn’t quite make it the whole way there. And unless you are seriously going to spend some time memorizing this recital speech which I don’t think is worth it at all it’s a waste of your time.

Then you are only going to get to the uncanny valley where you end up speaking a little bit stilted and a bit like a robot as you try to remember what you’re supposed to say. So don’t create a script either in your head or on paper just write a few bullet points if you want to practice a couple of times. I know that old “looking in the mirror” trick is one thing people do. I don’t do that myself but practice it. Looking in the mirror or just out loud into an empty room or to some toys you have in your studio or to your dog or to someone a real person. If you want to get that practice for a real person if you’re extra nervous I do suggest that for big speeches I will practice it for an actual audience even if they’re not particularly relevant to the audience you’re going to have it gives you some sense of what it’s going to feel like.

Another tip though is just to imagine yourself speaking it. So for a speech like this I will have run through it in my head a couple of times to imagine what I might say and just envisioning it might help you. Lastly if you are a very nervous speaker I just want to encourage you that it really does get easier. I’ve never had crippling anxiety around speaking or anything like that so I can’t speak to that. But if you’re just someone who gets quite nervous it does get easier if your mouth gets less dry each time you do it and it starts to become a little bit more natural never maybe never easy for you but it does start to get much much easier. And if you are someone who has serious anxiety issues around speaking in front of people and it’s just too much to add to your recital day seriously don’t do it. You don’t even have to say these few words. If that sounds terrifying to you ask a student to do it. I’m sure you have a confident older student who would be thrilled.

They’ll be delighted at the honor if you frame it the right way. Learn that you need a special you don’t have to explain that it’s because you don’t want to speak. They don’t know you’re supposed to speak you just tell your student that you want them to make the welcome speech because you think it would be way more special coming from them and they can write out a script of what they want to say. Nobody minds a kid doing that or a few bullet points and practice it in their lesson and Bob’s your uncle they’ll do it. So if it’s so overwhelming to you just take it off your plate there’s no reason for this to be the most stressful part of your recital day. I have a lot more resources in relation to recitals both on the colourful keys blog and here at the podcast so you can find links to those at vibrantmusicteaching.com/42. That’s the number 4 2 that will take you to the show notes page for this episode so that you can get the links to various Recital Preparation posts so to help you organize it to help you add extra special touches or to think about it as a celebration. As I mentioned earlier. That’s it for today.

I hope that this has been helpful for you. If you were unsure what to say at your recital or you just always at the last minute tried to come up with this list and it feels a bit frantic to write out my little list of essentials. Maybe add a nice to have and enjoy your recital. Focus on enjoying the day it’s a celebration for you too. You’ve been working hard all year so have fun. Sit back and try to enjoy your students performances.

And yeah happy recitals everyone. If you’re a member of vibrant music teaching you can find our recital program templates and poster templates in the library

So you can get to them in the library at vibrant music teaching dot.com. If you’re not a member yet you can sign up and VMT.ninja and get instant access to the recital templates as well as tons of other amazing games resources. And courses to level up your teaching and help you have more fun.

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