Studio Recital 2023

Recital Day Blues

It’s recital season again.

It’s also Solo and Ensemble season, band concert season, sports and theater and choir and debate and church retreat season and don’t forget graduation and…does anyone really want to come play on a flute recital?

I feel this way every year at this time, as I try to negotiate with parents, get commitments and practice out of the students and find a free or affordable location to have the recital. This year has been especially difficult in terms of how everyone’s obligations lined up. It took a good long while, a Google form and a lot of conversation before we could settle.

I have 56 students this school year and it will take three recitals to give them all the opportunity to perform. (Multiply all the negotiating and strife times 3!) When we get to the recital itself, I will be filled with love for these kids and their parents and feel completely proud of their hard work and accomplishments. But right now, wheels down in the final organizational phase, every year I have the same thought: is this an idea whose time has passed? Is it worth having a recital?

Of those 56 students, probably 40 will play. The reasons for the others not playing this year: sports, prom, other concerts, dance season, cultural school, etc. Still, I know there is value, especially for the youngest students, in standing up to play something with piano, and in getting to hear their older studio mates play.

I asked one of my high school freshmen this same question yesterday—is it worth it, having a studio recital? She’s very busy with competitions, youth orchestra, school, and her family—All-State was barely two weeks ago here in Tennessee. Am I putting too much on her, requiring a solo performance this weekend? Her answer surprised me in the best way. 

She said, “Yes, I’m busy, that’s true, but it’s so much fun to be together and to hear everyone play!”

And she’s right.

All the kids in my studio don’t actually know each other, but a lot of them do, either from meeting at my house, from going to school together, or from participating in honor bands and youth orchestra together. I love that they love each other. I love that they ask about each other, want to play chamber music together and back each other up in the healthiest of ways. They are each other’s on the road cheer squad. They humble me with the way they care for and support each other, and because I know how short an academic generation is, I know it probably won’t always be this way.

What are the benefits of having a recital? I believe, quite strongly, in making myself do hard, scary things. If I never do hard, scary things, how do I learn what I’m capable of? But that’s true of me—extroverted, neurotypical, game show host me. (Oh, look! It’s an audience, just for me!) If I bring up the subject of the recital and the student on the receiving end of the idea blanches or turns green, I am more than willing to back off. Everyone doesn’t necessarily need that pressure, but if it just takes a little convincing, well, I will convince!

My writing of this article has been interrupted by an 8th grader who is early for her lesson, and she says the same thing: the flute day recital, competitions, chamber music—they’re not the same. It is worth it, in this tiny and informal poll of good students, to put on a recital for the studio. So, tired as I am, on Saturday (and Sunday, and Wednesday in a couple of weeks), I will faithfully emcee these events and thank everyone for coming, thank the pianist for her patience, thank the parents for all the driving, and bask in this community. In a warm, sun-drenched room with all the people around, it is entirely possible to forget what a fight it was to pull the whole thing together. And next year, we’ll do it all again.

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