Recitals and Growth

Recitals and performances can have a lot of baggage attached to them. As adults, we often remember recitals from our youth as events that triggered anxiety, nerves, unmet expectations and possibly even our decision to stop taking lessons.

One problem with recitals and the philosophy around them is that we often think of them as something that represents finality. It's an event where we muster all our strength and practice efforts so we are "ready" or "perfect" by the big event. Once the event is over, we often start new music and never look back at that big event.

This traditional approach towards recitals can make students feel like everything rides on this big event. They can easily perceive it as their one shot to demonstrate everything they've worked so hard at preparing. It feels like a pass or fail situation that often comes with a lot of negative self-judgement or hyper-critical attitudes from the students themselves.

The problem with this approach is that performances and recitals are probably the most beneficial experience any student has during their lesson career. If we isolate each recital so the preparation and performance finish a chapter (so to speak), then we've missed a huge growth opportunity for the students.

At CMA we like to take a more long-term and growth-oriented approach to the recital. Of course we want the students to sound great at the recitals and will do everything we can to make that happen. However, we look at the actual recital as the starting point. Our teachers observe the students and their habits leading up to the recital. Then we observe carefully how the lead-up influences their performance… Sometimes it will go great. Sometimes things fall off the rails.

This event and the lead up influences the very next lesson until we reach the next point of departure - aka the next recital.

We love it even when kids who've only had a few lessons participate in a recital. Simply because we can learn more about the student and what their potential is in this moment than several lessons combined. Then the next lesson we can have renewed focus and energy because of what we learned at the recital as teachers, and what they witnessed from the other participants.

Several of our past students have taken lessons for fourteen years at CMA - from ages 4 to 18. With three recitals each year, that means they get to perform at 42 recitals. If students and the teachers work to build from each recital experience, those 42 events inform every lesson that happens between recitals . And students' confidence will grow exponentially as will their ability to express their musical ideas to an audience - sharing their growth at each recital. It's really a remarkable thing to witness.

We ditched the old and stressful recital model when CMA started. Building on each experience has made these events a cornerstone of our approach in lessons and our attitude about recitals. Recitals are simply a snapshot of where each student is at that time. Then we use the snapshot to help the next one be better.