Where There’s A Will, There’s…An Outdoor Recital!

When there’s a will, there’s a way…to have a spring piano recital in a new way! The Covid numbers are way down where I live, but my mantra throughout has been that I want my parents to trust that I’m doing everything reasonable to provide safety for my students. So, an outdoor recital was the solution. Actually, it went pretty well, and we might do it again this way just because it was pleasant to sit under the pavilion in the park, feel the breeze, and listen to some lovely music. Nobody felt pressured to dress in super fancy clothes, and we even had a dog in the audience!

I’m a bad blogger for not taking more photos, but I’ll just describe things and let your imagination work. I don’t usually do much decorating for recitals, and I kept it minimal here, too. I used some star garland at the far end and placed the digital piano in front. A former student kindly loaned me her guitar amp. I lined up the picnic tables along the sides, and some of the audience sat there, and some brought lawn chairs. I had a star-printed tablecloth for one of the picnic tables, and cupcakes with star toppers.

The only hitch came when a train rolled through just as one student was playing “Hedwig’s Theme.” Obviously, it was the Hogwart’s Express.

There are lots and lots of blog posts out there describing how to put on recitals, even outdoor ones, so I’m not going to do that here. I will just add a few general words of wisdom about recital preparation from years of experience.

  • ALWAYS call the venue the week before and make sure you’re still on their calendar, especially if you’re like me and you reserve it 3 months in advance. I had a scary experience with my very first recital. I found out the night before that another event had been planned at my venue and they had forgotten about me, or failed to put my recital on the calendar, or something. I had over 25 students playing and families coming from a neighboring town. I was able to get it worked out and the show went on, but I’ll never fail to call and check now!
  • If you’re going to need electricity or chairs or other equipment that the venue is supposed to provide, don’t assume it will be there because they told you it would. Check for yourself. It dawned on me on Friday before our Sunday recital that while I knew there were outlets at this pavilion, and I’d seen bands play there before, I had not personally checked that the outlets were working. So, I grabbed my phone charger and ran over to check that those outlets had some juice!
  • It nearly always takes longer to set up than I think it will. So, I plan the time I think I need and then add 30 minutes! This practice has served me well over the years!

To be honest, I really enjoyed this laid-back, authentic approach to music making and sharing. It humanizes performing and makes it less mysterious. Of course, I would have liked to provide a better instrument for my advanced students to show off their delicate shadings and nuances, but then again, I’m pretty sure that’s the first time there’s been any Bartok or Scriabin played there while passersby strolled past, tennis students had their lessons just nearby, and kayakers unloaded their vessels. Maybe we should normalize Bartok in the Park.

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