This article about an outdoor summer piano party was written by guest blogger Melissa Quilitzsch. Melissa is a piano teacher, music director and organist from central Massachusetts. As the Content Assistant for Colourful Keys and Vibrant Music Teaching, she works closely with Nicola to bring you all the awesome teaching tools you’ve come to know and love. When Melissa isn’t working, you’ll find her cheering at her kids’ sporting events, going on long bike rides with family, or checking out little coffee shops in the area.
It’s summertime! School is out, and fun is in! Bike rides, outdoor gatherings, swimming, family vacations – the list goes on and on.
For music studio teachers around the world, there’s one big problem with summer: Practicing the piano isn’t very high on your average kid’s list of fun summer activities.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Why not hijack the appeal of those fun summer activities by throwing a fantastic outdoor piano bash?
The Summer Dilemma
We’ve all been there.
Some parents think that it’s fine to put a hold on their child’s lessons until the fall – if you don’t need to keep up on algebra for the summer, why keep up with music?
Those students who do come to piano lessons in the summer may come in body, but often leave their soul out in the pool or on the soccer field.
Students don’t practice as they should in the summer, so it seems like you are repeating the exact lesson you gave them last week (or two, maybe three weeks ago as they missed those lessons completely).
To combat the struggle, I find myself trying to come up with summer piano lesson ideas to make it more exciting.
Bringing the Fun Back Into Summer Lessons
In my studio, it’s become an annual tradition to have a big outdoor piano party each summer – complete with a very casual recital. The anticipation of getting to participate in this end-of-the-summer bash helps keep students engaged in their weekly lessons as they prepare their recital pieces.
This annual piano party has become the highlight of our summers, and I am hopeful that this year will only be more thrilling!
If you’re thinking of ending your summer with a bang this year, here are some things to consider to make your very own summer piano recital a success.
Summer’s weather can be unpredictable, and you don’t want to be worried about rain on the day of your party. I always have the date of the event planned out but realize that we must be flexible in case of rain. Every parent understands this.
I like to have two alternate dates as a backup. I give all three dates to the parents at the start of our summer term, so they can plan accordingly.
Ask parents to bring their own lawn chairs and blankets so you don’t have to worry about seating.
For the outdoor piano recital portion of the party, I use a small speaker with microphone input and set it up near the digital piano, so each student comes up to introduce what they’ll be playing and something fun that they’ve done this summer (outside of piano). This eliminates the need to create formal programs to hand out.
Be prepared for wind with plenty of butterfly clips or extra books to hold down the pages. It’s even better if your students can just play from memory!
This seems like an obvious one, but make sure the sun won’t be directly hitting the piano at the time of the party. The first year that we had this type of party, I set up the patio area so beautifully about 4 hours before playing time with the digital piano in the shade, music-themed balloons, some plants and flowers…you get the idea. Well, fast-forward 4 hours and the sun had moved to shine directly in the students’ faces!
Give the parents and students a dedicated place to snap that amazing picture to remember this big event!
One of my piano moms is also our photographer, so she brings a backdrop stand. I provide a plastic music note tablecloth to hang on it, and have several props on hand for students to use.
I like to go pot-luck style for snacks at my summer piano parties. I provide the watermelon, drinks, plates, and utensils, then each piano family brings one snack to share with everyone.
One year we even made a Kit Kat bar piano – I was lucky to get a picture of it before it disappeared into the mouths of the students. 😋
As with any of our piano parties, the kids look forward to and expect the games! Over the years, we’ve had a lot of popular outdoor music games such as Flyswatter Badminton, Corn-Whole Note, Rhythm Tap Trap, and more.
Fly Swatter Badminton
Fly swatter Badminton is a must-do as any student, no matter age or playing ability, can participate and have the same amount of fun as older kids. Simply use spray paint to draw a line down the grass as the “net.” The only equipment you need is a few fly swatters and balloons from the local dollar store, plus a set of note-value flashcards.
The goal is for the students to keep the balloon in the air. If a team lets the balloon fall to the ground on their side of the net, the other team selects the next note-value flashcard from the deck.
When the flashcards are gone, the teams add up the beat values of all of their cards and the highest total wins. Super fun!
Vibrant Music Teaching Games
This year, I’m looking forward to modifying some of the Vibrant Music Teaching games for our outdoor summer bash. Steppity Skippity is one that easily can be moved outside. Instead of using the game cards, I could even have the little ones playing this one in some wacky patterns drawn all over my yard with spray-paint! Have a look at the VMT library and see which games you could play outdoors!
Pssst….Not a VMT member? Hop on over to the membership site to see all the wonderfulness you’re missing out on! And for more group piano party ideas, check out the “Groups” section of Nicola’s Studio Business site.
Whatever you decide to do this summer, stay positive and keep that piano passion present!