How do you get your students to practice over the holidays? Host a recital after the holiday! It always works. Last year we met in the church, actually just 2 days after Christmas. The church was still decorated for services, poinsettias, candles, lovely, quite inspiring, actually. This year, I pushed it back a week, and will probably keep this new agenda moving forward.
What a HUGE success! I had 19 students participate, from the absolute beginner to the well-seasoned high schooler; two adults even braved the spotlight tonight. What fun everyone had. Smiles all around. I set it up cabaret-style, tables surrounding the piano in the parish hall. Poinsettias on all the tables, and PlayDough! Part of a New Year's Resolution to shape these young students into accomplished musicians! Yes, the party favors were a hit, even with the non-performing audience.
But the stars of the night were the 19 performers, playing Jingle Bells, O Christmas Tree, Deck the Halls (we did have a lot of Jingle Bells, O Christmas Tree, and Deck the Halls) and Come See the Parade! and Chopin and Hoagie Carmichael. Everyone chose their own favorite current study piece, holiday or not. They had 2 whole months to learn, internalize, and polish their music, and they each shone.
We did not have a formal program. We drew names out of a hat to set the order. I think the informal setting took the pressure off. Even those who made obvious errors were not flustered. They held their composure, moved on, and got to the end of their music without a grimace.
And after the program, while folks were enjoying cookies and sparkling cider (note to self -- sparkling cider is a hit!), both young and old returned to the piano to play more music, to play duets, to have fun! I think the "open piano" half of the evening was my favorite part. At that point, the group's attention was diverted and the kids especially could just let loose, enjoy the art of creating music. "Put all your soul into it, play the way you feel!" to quote Chopin. These kids (and adults) were feeling happy and proud of their accomplishments!