What I did differently for my recital this year

A recital is an important event in most piano teaching studio calendars. Every year I try something a little bit different to mix things up and keep it fresh.

This was our second year at this recital venue…but it doesn’t mean everything stayed the same.

Two Chances

In previous years, I have had students play 2 or 3 pieces back-to-back when they perform.

I knew I only had time for one solo piece each this year as I had my largest ever number of students performing (30 kids) and I like to keep my recital around an hour long.

After careful calculations, I figured out I could have each student play twice with some doing a duet and some doing a Safari piece (explained below).

I really love having students go up to play two times rather than everything riding on this one performance. I also like that this way they get double the practice with the performance skills of thinking, breathing and bowing. 🙂

A Day on Safari

I recently found the work of June Armstrong and have been exploring some of her books with my students. (Don’t know what took me so long as she’s only up the road from me in Belfast!)

One of my favourite out of all of her fabulous books is Safari. This book follows a day on safari, starting at African Dawn, meeting various animals along the way and ending with Night Sky with Stars.

I’ve found these to be great rote pieces as they’re highly patterned and sound much more difficult than they are. And as I taught them an idea popped into my head…what if we told the story of the day on safari through these pieces in the recital and treated it as a multi-movement work?

So that’s exactly what we did. I was a little nervous about my plan but it went down a storm and I’ve had several parents and student mention that it was their favourite part of the concert.

Here’s how it went:

  • A group of 15 students prepared 1 piece each from the book.
  • We didn’t include all the pieces (there are more than 15) but I made sure to have a more experienced performer prepare African Dawn and Night Sky with Stars to round out the day.
  • I laid out rows of chairs at the front with the student names in order so it would flow without my guidance.
  • I asked these students to come up and sit in these rows before we started this part of the program.
  • I explained it to the audience and asked them to save their applause until the end.
  • After the last piece, all the students formed a line and took a bow together and then went back to sit in their regular seat with their families.

This certainly took a bit of extra planning and preparation but I think it was well worth it to have this different feature in the recital and a great “special” piece for my beginner – late beginner students. Those who didn’t play a Safari piece played a duet later on so every student played a “regular” solo piece and one “special” piece.

Rainbow Applause

This is an idea that I tried for the first time last year. There’s a Facebook live video about it here if you’re curious.

I decided to go even further this year and ordered a rainbow of pom poms for the audience!

Recital rainbow applause with pom poms

This will be an annual tradition for the foreseeable future. I love that it adds a bit more party atmosphere and removes some potential stuffiness from the occasion.

It also fits perfectly with my brand – we are the Colourful Keys Piano Studio after all! 😀

Student Quotes

Our theme for our recital is “Spring Celebration”. I call it this because I see it as a celebration of all the hard work that my students have put in during the year.

I don’t have students learn a piece specifically for the recital. I prefer to have them pick out their favourite piece from the year, with some guidance from me to make sure there are no duplicates.

So this year I got students to fill in simple forms with a few words about why they love their piece. I thought it would be fun for the audience to get to read quotes from the students and hear about what they connected to in the music.

You can see the quotes on the right in our program here.

2019 recital program colourful keys


One of my core values in my piano studio is collaboration. I want my students to work on things in teams and to play duets and other ensembles regularly. This is one of the reasons why most of my students do buddy lessons.

It’s no surprise then that we had plenty of duets and even a few trios in our concert.

We even had a quartet of Mini Musicians who completely stole the show!

Mini Musicians at the Colourful keys spring 2019 concert

We played a set of forest improvisations and the folk song Peter Taps from the Mini Musicians program together.

Planning your first piano studio recital?

I have a comprehensive guide and checklist to help you out.

Those 2 posts will walk you through everything you need to know. And if the welcome speech is the part that terrifies you then I have a great podcast episode for you here.

What did you do differently for your recital this year?

Share what went well and what fell flat in the comments below. 🙂

Piano recital ideas for piano teachers

5 thoughts on “What I did differently for my recital this year”

  1. The recital as a whole was awesome! Students performed very well. The winners for the recital were the audience participation piece and the finale piece for 6 hands. Audience loved them! The only flop was the 2 students I had reading the recital notes at beginning of recital, one spoke too fast and not loud enough. But, our best recital to date!

  2. Something I’ve played with is a mini-recital. I have two recitals each year: one large, formal recital for the whole studio at a performance venue; one much more casual affair at my in-home studio with smaller groups of performers and multiple recitals throughout one day. I love the large recital, and won’t ever give that up, but the mini-recital is a really great way for students who are a bit more anxious to practice performing in front of a smaller group. I think it also helps that they are playing in a familiar place, so it feels much less stressful. 5-8 students seems to be the magic number for these recitals, and I allow them each to play about 3 pages of music (depending on the tempo and staff size on the paper).

  3. Each student played a solo and then in the second section, everyone played with someone else. I few parents played guitar , one ukele, one piano with their student and some students played duets . The final piece was me playing Wendy Stevens’ “Guy Eye” with the audience tapping and snapping along..

  4. This year I brought 2 digital pianos to the venue. For the first time ever!! I did not write a story to weave through out the evening!! This year, everyone played their original compositions—which were extremely well received—and everyone played in an ensemble. Actually each student had 4 trips to the stage.: solo, duet or trio, duo piano ensemble and Junkyard Jam—bucket drumming! The evening was called “The More the Merrier “. It was simply fabulous.


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