Recitals – Are They Necessary?

Recitals. Not everyone’s idea of a good time, but still, recitals are important for your music student. We are getting close to the time of year when many teachers and studios have their winter recitals. I know what you are thinking – is this recital really necessary? I have so many other things to do! How is this going to be of any benefit to my child? Guess what? Teachers don’t plan recitals because they need to fill up some empty time in their schedules. They are just as busy as you are! Recitals are good for your child, and I am going to tell you why.

How will a recital benefit my child?

Six benefits for your child from participating in music recitals.
Six benefits for your child from participating in music recitals.

A recital is a great way to celebrate accomplishment.

Your child has practiced well. He has worked hard and learned new music. He can play his music well. The recital is a great way for him to show off his accomplishments. A way to demonstrate the results of all that hard work.

A recital gives your child the opportunity to learn about adapting and persevering.

Let’s face it, things happen at recitals. The piano may be different than what your child is used to. She might forget something about her music. She may be very nervous to play in front of an audience. Mistakes often throw off concentration. Your child needs to learn to adapt and continue. Recitals are great forums for that. Everyone attending the recital is on her side, inwardly rooting for her to go on, continue, finish. We learn from experiences.

Recitals are opportunities to learn and practice social skills.

Children need to learn to gracefully accept praise. Learning to say “thank you” to a comment on their performance is an important social skill. Recitals give children the opportunity to be supportive of others – to be a supporting friend to the other recital participants. They can learn empathy by supporting their friends who had a difficult time. Recitals are a great time for them to learn proper concert behavior. Things like not talking when someone else is playing. Not walking around during someone’s performance. Respecting others and their performances.

Recitals are also a great learning opportunity for important life skills.

How many times in life do we have to stand before a group and make a presentation? Whether it is for work, at church, in social settings, almost all of us do that at some time. And it can be nerve-wracking to stand in front of others. Recitals can help your child better learn how to perform in front of others. This can prepare them for things they may face later in life. Learning to be comfortable in front of others is a great life skill!

Recital performance can give a great boost to a child’s confidence.

You know how it feels to be praised for a job well done. That is the sense your child will get when he plays his piece and hears the applause of the audience. He thinks in his head, “I did it, and they liked it!”  What a boost to a child’s self-confidence!

Recitals can also be a great source of inspiration for your child.

Most recitals include students at various levels of ability on their instruments. As your child listens to older, more advanced students, she could be awed at the potential. Your child could be inspired to work harder, continue learning and practicing. “ I want to play like that student!”

How can you help your child prepare for a recital?

Make sure they practice and learn their music.

The better they know their music, the less nervous they will be.

Understand the requirements of the day.

Will they need to announce their name and the name of the piece? Practice that in advance.

Be an audience for them.

Pretend they are giving a concert just for you. Invite the grandparents to be an audience. Give them opportunities to play for others in advance of the recital.

Be supportive of them.

Make sure they know you love them and support them, even if they make a mistake.

The Day of the Recital

Be on time!

Plan ahead, be organized, and get there in plenty of time. Being late, having to rush, will just add to any panic or nerves your child might be facing.

Have your child dress up.

A recital is a big deal. Treat it as such. Let your child dress appropriately. Have your child look professional. You don’t have to buy new fancy clothes, but skip the jeans with holes, and the ragged hoodie. This is a special occasion.

Plan to stay for the entire recital.

Give your support to the other participants. Let your child hear the others play. Some of the others may inspire him to keep working!

Plan for your younger children.

Bring books, activities, or crayons to keep them quiet and in their seats. Be respectful to others. Teach them to applaud for others.

If you video your child, please be discreet.

Don’t stand in front of others. Do take pictures, but don’t embarrass your child by your behavior.

Consider bringing a small gift for your child’s teacher.

Flowers might be appropriate, perhaps a gift card. My girls’ violin teacher loved our pumpkin bread, so we frequently brought a loaf for her at recitals. She put in a lot of work to prepare the recital. Show appreciation of her efforts.

After the recital – Celebrate!

Celebrate your child’s hard work, efforts and accomplishments. Celebrate your child. It doesn’t have to be something big but make it special. It could be dinner out, maybe an ice cream cone, something special. Our favorite Chinese restaurant was close to our violin recital location. My youngest daughter often requested that we stop there after her recitals. Celebrate your child, not perfection.

Look at recitals as learning opportunities and ways to celebrate your child’s efforts. Enjoy the day, and you will give your child some great memories.

Share some of your recital experiences in the comments.

Recitals - are they really necessary?
Recitals – are they really necessary?

When Your Child Doesn’t Want to Practice…

What do you do when your child doesn’t want to practice? Do you have to fight this battle every single day? Is it worth it? They were so excited about learning to play piano, or horn, or violin – what happened? What have I done wrong? Almost every music mom deals with this at some point. So, what’s to do?

When your child doesn’t want to practice – Find out why!

Talk. Communicate. Listen. Something has changed. Find out what it is. Kids have a long list of reasons for not wanting to practice. I’m sure you can identify with at least some of these.

  • The music is too hard.
  • I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do.
  • I already learned that.
  • My instrument doesn’t work right.
  • It hurts – I am in pain when I practice.
  • Something happened at my lesson.
  • The other kids make fun of me.
  • I don’t have any time to practice.
  • I don’t have any place to practice.
  • This stuff is boring, or too easy.

When your child doesn’t want to practice – Solve the problem! (If possible!)

It they say that the music is too hard, or too boring, or too easy, talk to the teacher. See if there is justification for what your child says. Does your teacher see this as a possible problem? Is the teacher willing to adjust, give suggestions, help you out?

If your child says that she doesn’t understand what she is supposed to do, help her figure it out. Maybe the teacher’s notes will make more sense to you. Maybe a quick call, email, or text to the teacher will help you sort through the confusion. Make an effort to help your child.

Your child says they have no time, or no space to practice. Or that everywhere is too loud to practice. Could that be true? If you want him to practice you must provide the opportunity. Is he over-scheduled? Maybe find something to cut out. Or teach him to manage his time better.

Does he have a quiet place with enough open space to practice? I know most of us don’t have space for a dedicated music room, but your child needs an open space and a quiet place to do his practicing.

What about pain? Sometimes practicing an instrument will cause pain. We contort our bodies into unnatural positions to play certain instruments – that can definitely cause pain. And that must be dealt with!

When your child doesn’t want to practice – Check out the instrument.

My instrument doesn’t work right – maybe there is truth to that. Maybe a pad is loose, or a key is stuck. Perhaps some valve oil or a cleaning could help. Is there a problem with the chin rest or shoulder pad? Who knows, maybe someone’s sock got stuck in the baritone. My daughter had a student get popcorn in their violin! Look at the instrument to see if there is an obvious problem.

See if your child can be more specific about the issue. Then, ask the teacher, or band director, or orchestra director. Do they have any insight? Can they recommend a repair shop? Any practicing will go better if the instrument works correctly.

Be sure the instrument is the correct size for your child.  Is she holding the instrument correctly? Be certain there are no other physical conditions responsible for the pain. Talk to your teacher for ideas and recommendations. Check out posture.

For string players, it could be as “simple” as changing to a different shoulder rest. (I know – nothing is simple!) Don’t just dismiss comments about pain – get them checked out. I plan to do an entire post about this in the future.

When your child doesn’t want to practice – Don’t ignore the possibility of bullying or other inappropriate behavior.

Perhaps the issue is that other kids are making fun of your child because they play the violin instead of football. Or piano instead of soccer. Encourage your child. Point out the positives of playing their instrument. At least playing piano won’t earn them a concussion!

On a more serious note – a group called Time for Three has a great video about musicians and bullying. Check it out here: Time for Three

Did something happen at a lesson to discourage her from practicing? Was it an issue with the teacher? Or another student? This is too important to ignore. Talk, listen, find out what happened. Then, take appropriate action.

When your child doesn’t want to practice – Quitting should never be the first option!

Don’t take the easy way out and let them quit just because they complain. What are you teaching them? Would you let them quit after the first soccer practice if they complained about how hard it was? Music is no different! Learning to play an instrument takes hard work – years of hard work. But doing anything well takes lots of hard work. Teach them to overcome problems. Help them learn to persevere. Work with them to get beyond the boredom or the difficult times.

Almost every music student will have a time when he/she hates to practice. But that’s okay – encourage them to keep going. One of my sons used to complain all the time about practicing his cello. And he was getting good at his cello. He didn’t mind playing. I finally figured out the problem – instead of a hard case he had a bag for his cello, and it was too hard for him to take the cello out of the bag and put it back in the bag when he finished practicing. When we switched to a hard cello case – problem solved. Of course, there were days after that when he griped about practicing, but it wasn’t the big issue that it had been.

Talk. Communicate. Listen. Work on solving the real problem.

My Child Does Not Want to Practice!
My Child Does Not Want to Practice!
My child doesn't want to practice!
My child doesn’t want to practice!


Realistic Expectations

Dear Parents, please have realistic expectations about your child and his musical abilities. Let’s face it, most of our children are not musical geniuses or child prodigies. Sure, some may have greater talents or abilities than others. Some may have a greater drive or passion for music than others. But that doesn’t mean that they are destined from birth to be the greatest in the world!

Parents, Please have realistic expectations about music lessons!

Realistic Expectations:

Expect them to be THEIR best, not THE best.

Expect your child to be diligent in their efforts, to work to the best of their abilities. Also, expect them to make progress, to improve. I have told my own children repeatedly, to just expect that someone will always be better than they are. Even the greatest of musicians must face up to that. They may be the greatest today, but what about next year? New talent is always surfacing, there is always new competition.

Don’t pressure your child so much that she loses her desire and love of the music.

The amount of stress a professional musician deals with is incredible – will I stay on top of the musical world? Will I be able to make it? Can I deal with another world tour? How do I handle the next series of auditions, or competitions? Performance anxiety is a real thing among professional musicians. Many of them are on medications to help them deal with the stress of their lives. Many studies and articles give evidence to the stress and performance anxiety faced by professional musicians. Here is just a sample:  Musicians and Performance-Enhancing Drugs    Musicians and depression    Drug of choice for professional and pre-professional musicians   Is this really what you want to push your child into?

Don’t sacrifice your child’s love of music to your desires of perfection and a professional music career. Go into music lessons with realistic expectations. Maybe your child will show great ability and become the next world star. Or maybe not – maybe he will just enjoy learning and playing music as a hobby. Be okay with either. Let your child make that decision – don’t force him into it!

So what should you expect your child to get from their music lessons? Here is a list that should make any parent happy.

  • Discipline, patience, perseverance
  • Improved physical skills – coordination, fine motor skills
  • Sense of responsibility
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Greater creative self-expression
  • Improved academic skills
  • Exposure to history and different cultures
  • Better listening skills
  • Improved memory
  • Enhanced social skills
  • Most of all – pleasure, joy, and a sense of accomplishment

If you see even some of these results of music lesson in your child, I think you can say that the time and money invested in music lessons were worth it! These are qualities we all want to see in our children. These are definitely realistic expectations.