While Liam was preparing for his recital, we spoke at great length on how to prepare for his first full length performance. It was quite clear from his performance that he followed the advice I gave him to the letter, thus making for an outstanding recital. While we cannot control every variable of the recital, the better we prepare -- the better we play.
Deciding on your repertoire is the first, perhaps most important step you'll take. This decision needs to take place in advanced, not a week or two before the performance - but months before your performance. You may wind up bringing up pieces that you haven't played in a while, or wanting to go musically in depth in your interpretation. Giving yourself time to digest the music and preparing it is important.
With Suzuki students, typically we are working towards performing the whole book in a graduation recital. However, as the student continues to learn music, their older pieces might not get as much practice. While the student can play through the music with little difficulty they may be a bit rusty. A few memory slips here, some confusion on fingerings there, etc. By giving you or your child enough time to prepare the full recital, spending time on their music, these issues can be worked out.
For collegiate students, typically we play at least a senior recital. (At Hartt I had to play a Junior and Senior recital). For these students, often times they've played only a hand full (at the most) of performances so they are just as -- if not more so -- nervous as younger students. With the guidance of their teacher, these students decide what will be on their program. For the first recital, your teacher has been preparing you for this recital since your freshman year by assigning music that will ultimately be on their recital (without the student knowing at times).
Have Enough Time To Prepare
After your repertoire is chosen, next is how much time to prepare. For most students (collegiate and non-collegiate alike), the you've been continually preparing for your first recital. The repertoire that you've been working on will probably be on the program. With that said, while you are learning the last few pieces or movements of a piece for your recital, start bringing your old repertoire to performance level.
Leading up to your recital, there will come a time when you do not learn any new music. Shocking right!?! Well it's true. Once you've learned your final piece, give yourself about 3-4 months to bring back up any old pieces that haven't been relearned or to polish up your repertoire. This kind of cushion will allow you time to ready yourself for the performance.
If a student is gearing up for a full length recital, chances are they've performed many times as part of a larger concert. However, on these concerts many times you'll prepare a single piece. Maybe you'll be fortunate enough to prepare a multi-movement work or several short pieces together. You may be lucky and play for 10-15 minutes, but that can be rare. With a full length solo recital, you'll be preparing 4x as much music to play in one sitting. The sheer endurance of staying focused during 45-60 minutes of music is something that, as a student, you haven't experienced before. Plan mock performances of your solo program.
- Invite friends and/or family over for dinner. Use this gathering as an opportunity for you to try out your program in a low-stress environment.
- Book performances leading up to your recital date. Place these concerts a few weeks apart from one another, allowing you time to try to work out any issue that happened on the previous performance. Libraries and Nursing Homes are wonderfully places where attentive an interested audiences will appreciate your playing. At the same time the atmosphere is very low key and relaxed.
- Record yourself regularly. Listen back and critique. Use the recording to see if what you think you are playing matches with reality.
Aside from the above points, about eight weeks before the concert I tell students to start running through half of their program every other day. Thus taking two days to play through the whole program. Doing this builds up the stamina needed to get through your first full length recital. Students and/or parents (depending on age) should take note if there are any tricky areas that are causing issues and try and rectify them.
As the concert gets closer, the student should shift from playing half their concert daily to running through their whole program every day. This should happen around the four week mark. You can keep track of progress with recording as well as a written journey marking areas of improvements as well as possible solutions and the outcomes.
While much of this seems a bit overwhelming, the idea is to make it so that by the time you hit the stage for the "real thing", you've performed the program so much it becomes second nature. You learn to deal with issues that come up during a performance. Also, this preparation gives you the ability to polish your pieces and allow you to sit back and enjoy your own performance!
Check out all of Liam's hard work, below is a video of him performing Etude (Andantino) by Carulli.