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Recitals are an exciting capstone for music majors everywhere.  However, these performances require a high level of organization and preparation.  To ensure that your recital goes smoothly, you should start dreaming and planning as soon as you can.  Here is a twelve-month countdown and timeline with various tasks that may help you as you program your junior or senior recital.

One Year:

  • Confirm recital requirements with your private teacher and School of Music.  Recital requirements vary depending upon school, degree program, and grade level.  For example: at Dana, senior recitals for Music Education majors only need to be 30 minutes in duration.  Since I’m an over-achiever, I played for an hour and spoke about my repertoire in between.  Make sure you also know the deadline for recital hearings and program submissions.
  • Start to select and learn repertoire that you’d like to perform on your recital.  Order pieces that you don’t yet have in your library.  If you particularly enjoy something you’ve already learned, grab the music back out and start to polish that piece.  Always include your private teacher in this process.  Listen to their ideas and respect their responses.  They’ve heard you play and watched you grow for the past 2 or 3 years, so they know you very well. 
  • Create a practice schedule or practice goal for yourself.  Aim to play your instrument every single day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.  You’ll need to slowly but surely build endurance to perform a solo show of anywhere between 30-60 minutes.

Six Months:

  • Start looking at dates and venues.  Find 2 or 3 solid options, and present them to your family, private teacher, and collaborative musicians.  Don’t forget to check the School of Music calendar to confirm those dates and times are open!
  • Hire a collaborative pianist if you need one.  If you need help finding someone, contact your School of Music office and/or ask your peers for suggestions from their recitals.  Discuss fees and booking rates early to limit confusion later on in the process.  Get into the habit of referring to them as your “collaborative pianist” rather than just your “accompanist.” Oftentimes, the piano accompaniment is equally as challenging as your solo!
  • If you would like your program professionally recorded, hire a videographer or audio engineer.  Let them know the date and venue options and keep them posted throughout the booking process. Ask if they need additional set-up or tear-down time for their equipment.  Establish fees and payment methods in advance.

Three Months:

  • Officially book your recital date and venue.  Again, confirm this with your family, private teacher, and collaborative musicians.  Once you’ve got it booked, send a message to all necessary parties so they can mark their calendars ASAP.
  • Schedule several rehearsals with your collaborative musicians.  Make sure you have enough rehearsal time to sufficiently teach, learn, and rehearse your program.  Plan for your recital hearing early and consider scheduling a dress rehearsal for the week or two before your program.  Mock performances help alleviate some nerves prior to the big day.
  • Create a playlist with your recital repertoire and listen to it as much as you can.  Familiarize yourself with not only your own part, but with the parts of other musicians performing with you.  You should be able to sing your part at any given moment in each piece on your program.
  • Make posters and start hanging them up. Advertise your show so people actually attend.  Don’t forget to include your name, instrument, date, time, and venue.  Be as creative as you want; this is YOUR poster for YOUR recital. Use bright colors and spunky fonts to catch people’s attention.

One Month:

  • Find your recital outfit.  Go shopping or save time and shop online. Consult some friends if you need a second opinion. Ultimately, you’ll want to wear something that makes you feel comfortable and allows you to breath while you perform.  Feel free to coordinate colors and accessories with others who are playing with you.
  • Create a Facebook Event and/or Livestream.  Since I don’t have social media, a dear friend of mine graciously offered to create a live event on his Facebook page.  This enabled several of my friends, colleagues, and family members to tune in online and watch live even though they couldn’t make it in person.
  • Recruit a page turner.  Ask your friends or members of your studio if they’d be willing to turn pages for your collaborative pianist and/or other musicians on your program.  Make sure they know when to be there and how to non-verbally communicate with your pianist during your program.  In general, head nods and smiles are sufficient.

One Week:

  • Recruit some stage hands and helpers.  You may need assistance with the lighting and equipment changes during your program. Neither you nor your collaborative musicians should be responsible for moving furniture in your fancy outfits.  Find one or two friends/studio members to help facilitate these changes.
  • Prepare an encore in case the crowd can’t get enough of you.  If your encore includes other musicians, make sure you’re able to rehearse this with them prior to your show. Note good recital etiquette: if the audience is applauding, you must acknowledge them somehow. This doesn’t mean you have to stand up and bow every time people clap for you, but you should thank their praise with a smile, head nod, and/or seated bow.
  • Confirm all the details one last time.  Make sure people know when and where to arrive the day of your recital.  Confirm that everyone knows what color clothing and accessories to wear.  Remind your collaborative musicians to put their music in a black binder or folder for uniformity.
  • Write thank you notes for those who are helping you. Include checks for your collaborative pianist and audio engineer. Consider purchasing gifts such as gift cards or small trinkets for other collaborative musicians and helpers on your program such as the page-turner and stage hands.
  • Purchase a bunch of bananas.  Bananas are natural beta-blockers which can help calm those butterflies.  If you eat one half an hour before your show, you may find your soul stilled and ready to perform a beautiful show.
Hannah Shively

Youngstown '22

Hannah Shively is a senior pursuing her bachelor's degree in instrumental music education from the Dana School of Music at Youngstown State University. She's very passionate about a lot of things: Jesus, music, coffee, fruit snacks, dogs, the cello, and being barefoot. She adores traveling, especially to the beach. You can often find her hanging out with friends, making music, eating delicious food, and going on new adventures.
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