Studio Recitals are a wonderful opportunity for students to showcase for family and friends all the hard work they have done. It’s also a great benchmark for students to work toward and a time for them to realize how far they have come since their last performance.
I recently got asked by a parent if I had ever thought about performing for my students at one of these recitals. The short answer is ‘yes’ I have thought about it and, ‘no’ I have chosen not to perform. Let me first say that I think it’s important (I would even go so far as to say imperative) that students see their teacher perform. That said, I have chosen not to make my Studio Recitals a venue for this to happen for several reasons.
The first reason I choose not to perform on Studio Recitals, and perhaps the most important one, is because I believe it’s important for students to hear me play out in the “real world”.
Students need to attend professional concerts in order to gain an understanding of what it means to be a musician. Fostering an appreciation for professional concerts contributes to the education of young musicians. Whether a student chooses to become a professional musician, amateur musician or a musical spectator they will need this education. There is becoming a widespread ignorance of classical music as a profession and as entertainment because children are not educated and exposed to it, therefore as adults they do not understand or value it. It is my desire to encourage parents to bring their children to professional concerts of all kinds. Students and parents who are interested in hearing me play can attend a local symphony concert, a solo recital, a chamber performance or a special church service. I make it easy for parents and students to know when these opportunities are taking place, and many performances are free. I believe the value for a student in hearing their teacher play lies not only in the experience itself, but also in the venue and atmosphere in which it takes place.
The second reason I choose not to perform on Studio Recitals is a personal one: it’s simply too busy and stressful for me to plan a recital for all my students and perform on that same recital.
As one who knows what it’s like to experience severe performance anxiety, I have learned in my professional career what I must do to cope with this. (You can read about some of my methods on the following post: http://blog.playviolinmusic.com/2011/07/26/performance-anxiety/ ) I believe any teacher/performer will tell you that while teaching and performing are intrinsically related, they are very different functions for the individual. When I perform I need to be in a different “mode” or “zone” than when I am teaching. In order to do my job well I need my mental and physical energies to be dedicated to that task. Probably no one but my husband knows the time and effort that goes into coordinating each Studio Recital, and for me, performing even a “simple” piece would add too much undo pressure and would take away from my ability to be fully dedicated and available for my students.
The third and last reason I choose not to perform on Studio Recitals is because I do not want to take away from the work of my students.
Studio Recitals are a special occasion, set aside to celebrate the work of my students and I desire this to be the focus of each Studio Recital program. My goal is to have students leave with a sense of personal accomplishment, not a feeling that they have “so far to go” to get to the level of their teacher. This said, I do perform with my students on duets or in other capacities that serve to highlight and support my student’s music. I believe this is important and very appropriate. Studio Recitals are a day for my students and I desire to keep them that way!
Emily Williams is the creator of Strategic Strings: An Online Course for Violin and Viola Teachers