Can you believe it’s already almost December? This year just feels like it’s flying by and I’m already only two weeks away from my Winter concert!
Last week was our performance preparation class.Three weeks before any performance, I hold a group lesson where we rehearse our concert pieces.
I’m sure many of you are also holding recitals at this time of year, so I thought I’d share what we got up to last weekend at our performance preparation class.
The basic idea of these group classes is to give my students a practice run of their pieces before the main performance.
For any students who get very nervous about playing in front of others, this group lesson can act as a “halfway point” to a full audience. Having played their pieces for their peers, they have the confidence to play them at the recital.
The other students who get a great deal out of these lessons are the exact opposite! Students who are over confident and under practiced can get the wake up call they need at these group classes, without the scarring experience of performing badly at a recital.
This was a two hour group lesson, and the bulk of the first hour was spent on our rehearsal. Since we were preparing for a Christmas concert, I had the students names in a Santa stocking.
They took turns to pull a name from the stocking, and then that student performed their pieces. This simply meant that I didn’t have to be the one to decide who had to go first (plus the kids got a real kick out of it!).
Before they played we discussed all the things we need to remember when we’re performing. Things like not running up to the piano, adjusting the bench, taking a breath before you start, checking your hand position, etc, etc.
After each student played my students had to try and identify what pieces they had played (all Christmas tunes). This was a lot of fun! Although it’s always surprising which melodies they can’t identify!
Christmas Tree Match-Up
After our rehearsal, we played “Christmas Tree Match-Up”. I split the students into mixed groups for this, so that more experienced players could help newer players with some of the symbols.
You can download the pdf for this game by clicking the image below. It does mean a lot of cutting out but I thought it was worth it! There’s also a USA version, if you want quarter notes instead of crotchets.
(Click on the image to download the pdf)
After Christmas Tree Match-Up, we had a short break for some juice and cookies. This was as much an important part as the rest of the group lesson, as the students could get to know each other.
Having a studio with a good sense of community is important to me. It makes concerts and other group activities so much more fun!
After the break, I split the students into groups again, this time organised by level, and we dipped into my collection of games.
The new beginners played Alphabet Trail from Pianimation. Luckily one of the kids in this group had played before so she could help the others to learn how. This game is nice and long, so great for group lessons. It’s excellent practice for beginners with the music alphabet.
My late beginner and early elementary students played Musical Meander, Reverse Spell-a-Staff and Bananas and Ladders. There were two groups of three at this level, and they swapped games with each other when they finished them.
While all this was going on, the two teens that attended the group lesson were at the piano.
First they did some improvisation, using Forrest Kinney’s Pattern Play books. These books have been an invaluable resource in my studio, as they make improvising at the piano straight forward and fun.
After this, I challenged them to play some of their own Christmas pieces, with one of them playing the right hand, and one playing the left. This is more tricky than it sounds, as they have to really listen to each other and count carefully to make it fit together.
Lastly they worked on sight reading, using Carol Matz’s Famous and Fun Duets. They worked through the whole of book 3, and started on book 4.
Having the two older students working away at the piano meant I had more time to answer all of the questions the kids had, and that we had some background music for our gameplay. This combination of three game groups, and a duo at the piano made for such a fun scene.
Chaotic, but super enjoyable!
For the last ten minutes of our 2 hour class, we all came back together in a big circle for some Rhythm Cups.
This is by far the best activity I have found to get students of all ages engaged together. Even with only quarter note rhythms, it’s still fun for the intermediate students; while being accessible for absolute beginners.
For a more detailed break down of a full group workshop for piano students – take a read through this post about one of my composer spotlight piano party workshops.
Do you hold rehearsals before your recitals or concerts?
Is this a new idea for you? Or do you always hold practices like these? Is there something you do differently to the structure I use?
I’d love to hear all your ideas!