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The 4 Step Recital Checklist
Posted on January 30th, 2018 
Know what's nerve-racking? Putting on a show. Granted my show wasn't as tedious as a musical theater production or a play, but it still had a lot of components to it:

1. Students
2. Venue
3. Preparation
4. Actual event!

Okay, so that doesn't look like a lot, but under each of those categories lays a realm of details that are super important. First, let's clarify. I wanted to put on a Winter Recital* for my Voice, Piano, and Music Exploration students.
A graphic showing the definition of recital.
On to our 4 Step Checklist!

#1: STUDENTS

So let's begin. It's August 2017. I've told all of my students and their parents that we were going to have a Winter Recital in December, but the date was uncertain. I asked them all if they were interested in participating, and to my surprise, not everyone wanted to! I guess I should have expected that, but for some reason I had envisioned every single student going up on stage and performing. That's why I offer it as an option though; not everyone wants to perform, and that's okay! The students who did want to be in the recital were really excited and so was I.

#2: VENUE

I had 25-30 students planning to perform in the Winter Recital. I was originally going to partner with a fellow piano teacher in my area, but between our two studios, there were far too many students for one event. No one wants to sit through a two+ hour long recital. I definitely had enough students to put on my own recital, I just had to find a venue that would work. Oh, the venue. What a fun task it was to find a place that had a stage, a sound system, lights, microphones and speakers, a piano, and enough room to fit all my students and their families. Oh! I almost forgot, it had to be within a reasonable budget ("reasonable" is a relative term, but to me, it meant no more than $500).

Flash-forward to October, and I had called around town to all the different clubs and facilities that rent out their spaces. It wasn't easy. Either their price was too high or they didn't have everything I needed. I went back and forth with a few different places, and I finally settled on my old high school's theater. They had a great stage, perfect lighting, all the sound equipment we needed, a baby grand piano for my piano students to play on, theatre staff, and custodian. Everything was taken care of, all I needed to do was get and provide proof of liability insurance (by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin that came in a few days before the recital, thank goodness!). It was time to start sorting out the details.
Matanzas Auditorium
I took the final cost for the recital and divided it between all the students who wanted to participate, and myself. Everyone agreed and all was well. Until, that is, the end of November rolled around and some of my students backed out. The recital was set for the first Saturday in December. That's fine, that's fine, the show must go on, it just meant I had to come out of pocket a bit more than I had anticipated. But honestly, show me a teacher that doesn't come out of pocket for their students at some point, right? Anyways, I had 25 performers confirmed, a venue secured, and the recital was well on it's way. I was very excited.

#3: PREPARATION

As the weeks passed from August to September, to October, to November, my students grew more confident with their piano playing and singing skills. We chose recital pieces in October/November, and it was all coming together nicely. It's a good idea to pick pieces way ahead of time so that students don't feel too pressured and have an ample amount of time to master their work. Or, if the song they chose doesn't end up being a good fit, they have enough time to change it. I also put my youngest students together (my Music Explorers who are 4-6 years old), and created a Music Exploration "Band". They learned two songs in their lessons and we had a group rehearsal before the recital so that they could meet one another and get used to performing together. They were absolutely adorable, but I digress...preparation. I made, edited, re-edited, re-edited again, proofread, proofread again, proofread again again, proofread again again again, and finally ordered programs from VistaPrint (gotta love VistaPrint). They came in good timing and great quality, as expected.
Planet e Studios Winter Recital 2017 Programs
My husband created a Facebook event for the recital and set up ticket purchases online. Smooth sailing. This isn't really one of those dramatic "AND THEN YOU'LL NEVER BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT!" stories. The whole experience was quite actually smooth sailing.

I sent out an email to everyone involved in the recital, going into grave detail about absolutely everything I could think of: the date; what time to show up; directions to the theater; the dress code for performers; how ticket sales worked; how to share the Facebook event. I then sent out a text message to everyone involved, to tell them that I sent an important email with all the recital information. I even re-sent the email as a reminder the day before the recital. Please let me tell you, I STILL had parents and students asking me questions all the way up to the day of the recital. That's okay. It's funny to me, but honestly I'm glad they asked- even if they already had all the info- because then they knew for sure, and I knew that they knew for sure. I also emailed back and forth with the coordinator for the theater to make sure they had all of our equipment and needs organized and ready to go. The point is, follow-up. It's very, very, very important to do...as many times as necessary.

#4: ACTUAL EVENT!

Oh boy! It's December! It's my very first studio recital and I was in charge of every detail! My studio's debut performance in Palm Coast, FL for all their (and my) family and friends to see. How riveting and how intimidating at the same time. I was SO nervous. So many fun things happened:

1. One of my Music Explorers caught Hand, Mouth, and Foot disease and had to stay home.

2.One of my piano students came down with the flu and was stuck at home in bed.

3. I forgot the key to the theater- yeah, we had to turn around to get that.

4. I forgot the programs- yep, had to go back for those too. Of course, I didn't remember to get these when I went back for the key, so this was a separate trip (good thing we lived less than 5 minutes away!).

5. One of my piano students forgot their music and their dad had to run home to get it.

6. Decorations- I had bought garland and snowflakes and such, but I didn't buy enough to fit across the stage and the tape just wasn't working. We tried to space it out and make it look pretty, but it all just kept falling down so I decided it really wasn't important enough and we moved on. Without decorations.

7. Instrumental tracks on a flash drive- I had been told to put all of our instrumental tracks in order, on a flash drive. When we got to the theater, the staff didn't know how to use the flash drive with their equipment so my husband had to race home to grab my laptop and connecting cables to hook it up to the theater equipment so that my voice students could have their background music.

8. My cajon- a cajon is a drum and one of my Music Explorers was using it in their performance. My mom ran back to my house to get it because I didn't remember it until we had already started the recital.

9. Multiple cameras- my husband set up the video camera so that we could record the recital. However, after the second performer, the camera suddenly went black and read "SD card error". We had brought an extra camera, but between the trips back home and setting up the sound, we didn't have time to set up the other "in case something happens" camera. He was able to put a spare SD card in and continue recording, we just didn't get to record the kids that performed while he was taking care of the situation.
Music Explorers performing at the Planet e Studios Winter Recital 2017
Aside from all of that, it was fantastic! This was pretty much the first time any of my students had performed in front of an audience, and they all did really well! Sure there were a few mistakes, pauses, forgetting lyrics, etc., but the audience was very supportive and encouraging, and everyone was so proud of these musicians. I was beaming. Recitals are awesome. You get to witness such growth and the students feel so accomplished. It's nice to see them proud of themselves. I highly recommend recitals twice a year; once in the Winter and once in the Spring. I'm looking forward to our Spring Recital in a few months!
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By Emily Feinberg-Hosier
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I loved being smiled at. Not in the creepy guy-trying-to-get-my-number-no-thanks-I'm-married kind of way, but in a friendly, small town kind of way that reassures me there are always nice people out there. All it takes is a smile.
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