THE WARM UP
Performing in public for the first time is like navigating unchartered waters: one never knows where it may lead them.
Unsure of how your mind and body will react to the differing energy in the room. Will you be able to maintain focus and stamina to complete the piece? Is there a temptation when mistakes arise (and they always do) to stop or just keep on going? Will I make mom and dad proud, or more importantly myself? Why do I feel like throwing up?
No matter how deafening the monkey chatter, the act of pushing through doubt and uncertainty is a collective experience—and one could argue, a right of passage. The fear of looking foolish or being judged can be overwhelming but is quite often tempered by curiosity, enthusiasm, and the drive to test oneself.
To that end, in whatever the form anxiety presents itself, playing to an audience is best-addressed head on, in the form of a recital. What better way to change your relationship to fear but in a friendly, supportive environment? Learning to coexist with it rather than running away—a useful tool in any situation.
The trick, if there is a trick, is reminding yourself why you are doing this. Knowing the value and intent of actions. Each student of the piano brings his or her own personal goals to the instrument, and a good teacher will nurture these desires while gently encouraging areas of concentration that may be more demanding—like performance.
Studies have shown that performing stimulates the mind and body, and for children can be an invaluable tool in the advancement of social skills, psychological maturity, and emotional behavior. Additional interpersonal skills, like compassion and empathy, are also cultivated while preparing and playing in recitals.
The act of scheduling, anticipating, and preparing for a recital helps the performer establish reasonable markers in which to aspire, and in the process develop patterns of discipline and self-reliance. And when set goals are finally fulfilled, when the performer sees the effort returned by the audience’s reception, a wellspring of confidence and poise emerges boosting self-esteem and pride.
Teachers rely on recitals to effectively incentivize practice while also reinforcing good habits, stage presence, and critical thinking. But beyond the practical, nothing can quite prepare the student for that transcendent connection, when performer and spectator become collaborators.
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The evidence suggests that for children to get the most from music education, it needs to be enjoyable, challenging and also achievable. It needs to be supportive and provide space for children to be creative, and include group activity to help build social skills. The Importance of Music, A National Plan for Music Education