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. It seems natural, to talk about the upcoming Christmas Recital and planning it.

“Let’s start at very  beginning…a very good place to start… when you read you begin with ABC… ” When you plan a recital you begin with the part I dislike…booking the venue.

Why do I dislike booking the venue?

It feels a little like begging. I have to call around trying to find the perfect place.  I have to set appointments and go visit said places. It has to accommodate the crazy needs of my not- too- big and not too little multi-instrument studio. It can’t break the bank. I feel like dear little Oliver with his hat out when I call. “Please Sir, might I use your facility for a few hours…?”

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. 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. We book the venue for the whole afternoon or the whole evening. We need extra time for set-up/tear down/sound checking/ and two recitals. The recitals are about an hour each with time for refreshments. We must make sure we have a place for cookies and punch. Those kiddos have to memorized, and they need 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.  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 good in different ways, but we have found that with the size of our studio, churches work best.

This Christmas we will be returning to a local church that has a sound person that is there to assist us. YAY!  They can even put up video on the screen behind the students if we want.  YAY YAY!

I  was able to book the recital at the beginning of September. If I had of chosen the local 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 events on our studio calendar.

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. The  majority of our students are beginners to early intermediate players.  Their music can be learned in shorter periods of time. Advanced private students can have their music earlier,  if necessary.

There are so many wonderful Fall inspired pieces that I want them to learn. But before that we have to review.  As many students disappear during the Summer, we generally need to get back in our method books. We have to establish practice routines. This is why Christmas music doesn’t get introduced until November.

What music are my students performing?

They will be playing Hal Leanard Student Library Christmas ensemble pieces. 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 of an ensemble. I’m kicking up the expectation this year. Younger students memorize fast, anyway. My main learning emphasis with this experiment is that they have to count well. Ensembles force students to learn to count properly. Students can use their ears to find their place if they fall out. They can get back in faster than trying to scan music that they can’t read that well anyway.

I also will have the piano students sing together on some beautiful two-part singing along with our Choir Club students. I know it’s going to be beautiful. Children’s voices are simply lovely. Only a few students will perform solo pieces. I am also working on writing a connecting narrative script to bring flow to the program.

Recital Countdown:

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.

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 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 recital week. Any groups that need extra help we call an emergency rehearsal. We fine tune any accompaniments.

December 11 – Fill the goodie/ 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/goodie bags in the cue 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. Note to teacher: Have a calm reassurance ready, no matter your own butterflies!

  • 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 You God, we don’t have to do this again until May!
  • 6:30 p.m. Equipment Load-In to the Studio. Kick off the heels- Loosen the Tie-eat some leftover cookies. We made it! Whew!!

Put Your Feet Up-Good Job Music Teacher!!