So, it’s November 14. It’s a Wednesday and the work week is half over. Next week is Thanksgiving and the Christmas Recital on December 15th is right around the bend.

The holiday rush is starting to really pick up. I thought it would be a great time to talk about recital preparation- enjoying the process when life gets hectic!

So, let’s start from the beginning: How did I choose the venue for the recital and when did I book it?

We currently have around 75 students. That makes the recital loooonnnnggg….ain’t nobody got time for that. Also, we let our students invite anyone they want. This is their moment and if they want their best friend and their great-uncle to be there so be it.

To solve the length problem, most of the students perform in groups. We also divide the recital into two. So, we book the venue for the whole afternoon or the whole evening so that we can have lots of set-up/tear down/sound checking/ and two recitals that are about an hour each with time for refreshments. Those kiddos earn their cookies!

To solve the seating and parking problem as well as the price, we rent churches (Large commercial venues cost $$$$, and we don’t need a $$$$$ arena, anyway.) By utilizing local churches in our area our dollars go to supporting a ministry, and churches are already designed for large groups with adequate staging, seating, and parking. Smaller churches seem to be perfect for us. The church we rent in the spring also has a community barn with a stage which  is really cool. We love keeping it in our local community. We have in the past also had recitals in senior centers, parks, music store studios, and restaurants. These places are also good in different ways, but we have found that with the size of our studio, churches work best. So, this Christmas we will be returning to a local church that has a sound person that is there to assist us-YAY- and even can put up video on the screen behind the students if we want. Double YAY! So, I booked the recital at the beginning of December. However, if I had of chosen a music store recital hall, I would have had to book it a year in advance. When I booked the Christmas recital, I also booked the Spring Recital, that way we could put both on our studio calendar to give to students at the beginning of fall lessons.

So, when did we start working on Christmas music? I don’t like to start Christmas music until November. This means that the recital music may be simpler but that’s okay because the majority of our students are beginners to early intermediate players. Advanced private students can have their music earlier, but only if extremely necessary. There are so many wonderful fall inspired pieces and we often just need to get back in our method books and establish routine after the summer anyway. So, first week of November-Christmas music comes out.

What music are my students performing? They will be playing Hal Leanard Student Library Christmas Ensembles. I love these arrangements by Phillip Keveren. This year I am requiring that they memorize their ensemble part-in the past I allowed them their music if they were on their own part. I’m kicking up the expectation this year. I also will have the piano students sing together on some beautiful two-part singing along with our Choir Club students. It’s going to be beautiful. Only a few students will perform solo pieces. I am also working on writing a connecting narrative script to bring flow to the program.


September 1– Book the Church/Pay the Deposit Fee

October 1– Choose the Music/Order if needed- Avoid assigning the same carol. Order items for  student gifts and refreshment table.

November 1– Start the Christmas Music- Week one Memorize 1st 8 Bars-

  • Week 2 Memorize all of the first page.
  • Week 3-Start memorizing the second page and start playing together in class. Send a note home that spells out everything about the recital and how to prepare. Email any accompaniment music that is helpful to rehearse with.
  • Week 4- Play together as a class-really hone in on counting and syncing the ensemble together. Remind them that the metronome is their friend. Write the Script.

December 1– Dynamics!! This week we take the piece to an artistic level! The students should have their parts down-as we are on the home stretch. I love this part! I start working on the recital program. My husband starts working on the slides that will go on the screen announcing each student/group as they play.

December 10– Print the Recital programs- get the slides to the sound/AV person.  The studio is closed for the week. Any groups that need extra help, we call an emergency rehearsal-only if desperate! Fine tune any accompaniments that we are playing.

December 11 – Fill the goody/ bags- arrange/inform any volunteers or paid staff that will need to be on hand for the event.  Who’s taking pictures or video? Who’s Ushering? Who’s doing the punch bowl?

December 14-Last minute everything- get music equipment/programs/scripts/refreshments/decorations/music books/goody bags in the ready for load-in.

December 15-RECITAL DAY!!! Cue the texts and phone calls from parents with last minute concerns. They will start at 7:00 am and last all day. Have a calm reassurance- ready no matter your own butterflies! Get that smile on your face and keep it there!

  • 11:00 am Load in all music  equipment.
  • 12:00 p.m. eat lunch on the fly- you are at load-in at the venue. Sub sandwiches for all staff. Set-up the equipment and refreshment table/decor. Get the punch ready. Settle any monies owed to the church.
  • 1:00 p.m. Sound Check
  • 1:30 p.m. Any students needing a sound check-
  • 1:45 p.m. Students are seated
  • 2:00 p.m.  Recital 1 -Showtime!!!
  • 2:50 p.m. Refreshments- Goodie Bags/pictures/ Tuning for  Recital 2
  • 3:00 p.m. Seating for Recital 2
  • 3:15 p.m. Showtime for Recital 2
  • 4:00 p.m. Refreshments-Goodie Bags/Pictures for Recital 2
  • 4:30 p.m. Tear down/Load out
  • 5:00 p.m. Dinner out for staff- Thank God we don’t have to do this again until May!!!
  • 6:30 p.m. Equipment Load-In to the Studio. Kick off your heels- Loosen your Tie-eat some leftover cookies. We made it!! Whew!!


Put Your Feet Up-Good Job Music Teacher!!