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Piano Recitals: A New Take On An Old Event

As a child, when my piano teacher informed me that a studio recital was scheduled, my heart began to pound and my stomach filled with butterflies. Most of my recitals growing up were held in either a large concert hall or a cavernous church, playing on an unfamiliar piano. On top of that, I didn't really know the other students or their parents, so I was playing in front of strangers. It was nothing short of awkward.

Fast forward 20 years, and here I am hosting my second piano open house / recital in the following week. I was very hesitant at first to even offer a studio recital, but after some study and reflection, I feel that I've been able to find a healthy balance in maintaining the tradition of a piano recital, but with a modern twist.

The piano itself didn't truly develop until the late 1700s, starting out with a plucked-stringed harpsichord that later evolved to a hammer-striking pianoforte (now known as a piano). From there, the tradition of the piano recital didn't really occur until the early 1800s, when pianists would test out and refine their performances in the more intimate setting of a salon, surrounded by a small group of listeners and supporters.

It was Franz Lizst who turned the small, sweet setting of a salon and transformed recitals into a more formal concert setting. With Lizst being such a virtuoso, he instantly became a rock-star hit in Europe. His trademark was to play on a large piano in a large hall with the piano turned sideways so the audience could not only see his hands, but also his killer profile.

Lizst brought us to the modern concert, where piano kings and queens dominate the instrument in a very formal and very intense setting: music memorized, perfect collaboration with a symphony, and a large audience watching their every move. The modern studio piano recital has that same feel: the expectation of playing perfectly on a different piano in front of a lot of strangers.

So upon all these reflections of my past and the study of the history of pianos and piano recitals, I decided to resurrect the idea of a piano salon setting for my students and their parents. So my recitals are truly, in fact, an open house at my home. Parents and students have the opportunity to meet others and develop relationships. The students have the option to play in front of their peers and parents on the piano with which they are familiar, as they play on my piano every week. After all the students who have wanted to play have performed, we then have some theory fun with music bingo, complete with Symphony candy bars as the ultimate bingo prize.

The overall goal for my open houses is simple: to create a comfortable setting that allows my students to feel confident in performing in front of others without fear.

I think I've found a happy medium. But what do you think? Comment below!

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