This was an incredibly busy week for me as a mom. My daughter, Juliette, was in the Nutcracker and we had rehearsals Wednesday and Thursday, and then performances Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. As I was trying to juggle my work and being with my daughter, I realized the things we do that really impact our children’s stress levels. So, this blog is going to be from both a mom and teacher perspective. Sometimes, it’s really hard to switch hats!
Rehearsals began in early October. Soon, those rehearsals became part of our routine- fix hair, put on head piece, drive there, rehearse for 2 hours, drive to the rest of our Saturday activities. It was a sacrifice- I had to reschedule most of my lessons the week of the performance to be with her (during what is our recital season). Many weekends, I was teaching in between family stuff and rehearsals, making sure my own students got in their lessons. Juliette sacrificed her “down-time” on the weekends as well as doing homework ahead of time so she didn’t get behind in her school work.
I was able to be backstage mom on Friday evening, and as I watched these kids go out on stage, worried about whether they would mess up, we gave them the confidence that they knew what they were doing! They had practice so hard, attended numerous rehearsals, and now it was time! They were going to be amazing! We had weeks to practice the curls and hairstyle. One of the performance nights, a girl’s curls were slightly out of place, and there was a panic to fix those curls! Get the bobby pins (that actually have a place on the emergency table backstage) and fix! You know what that dancer was then probably thinking? Are my curls ok? It made me wonder what was important in a performance.
On Sunday, I got to sit in the audience and just watch the ballet. It was absolutely beautiful. At some points, it brought tears to my eyes. Do you know which parts were so heart-warming? It was the dancers who were truly confident on stage. Their smiles that glowed were contagious. They were not worried about their steps or their curls. They knew they were as prepared as they could be. They put their hearts into it. Did the audience pay attention to the curls? Nope. Was I looking for curls out of place? Nope. And I feel pretty confident that I’m not the only one who “wasn’t paying attention” to that sort of thing. It was a truly professional performance. I could even bet that the directors backstage were watching for confident and poised dancers.
This is not a whole lot different than what we do to prepare our students for their music recital. We give recital music usually 8 weeks prior. We work with our students to get their rhythm correct, to get in dynamics, to perfect the notes, to work on our bows, and to get our piece by memory. It’s not just the student’s effort- it’s the entire family! You (parents) have to listen at home, you have to remind them to practice, you have to bring them to their lessons...the list goes on.
At the recital prep class I taught, a majority of the students were so nervous. Now, we were in the “comfort” of a living room with a beautiful piano. These kids were prepared. Most had their pieces memorized, but a lot lacked dynamics and personality. Why? Because when we are nervous, those are the first things to go. They didn’t want to mess up. They think, “if I mess up, then it’s not perfect, and my audience will only hear the mistakes”. Unfortunately I have the same thoughts as well when I have to perform. I can’t tell you how much I dislike performing, and it’s because of my experiences in college performances. All I would get was negative feedback- and it was crushing! This has affected my adult “performance” life.
In this crazy world that our children live in, we need to instill in them that we are not striving for perfection all of the time. Of course, there is a time and place for that. We want them to be the best they can be. We want them to be confident performers. We want them to enjoy what they are doing. So, does that mean we throw rhythm, correct notes, dynamics all out the window? NO!! But, we want them to work hard on that before and be super prepared before their actual performance. Which means, we practice. We learn and memorize a few weeks before so that then we can concentrate on enjoying the performance.
Parents, be supportive to your child. Encourage them to work hard now and that they will be so prepared that they will have fun. No one knows their piece like they do. They are the expert. We want them to show us what they love about their piece!
As teachers, we will encourage our students. We will ask them to prepare their best and then not remark only on the mistakes, but celebrate their victories.
Our recitals are a wonderful day for us as teachers, parents, and students. This is a family affair and a celebration of music. Our students are well prepared: and yes, we do make sure that their piece is memorized, but that’s so they really know their piece. I know recitals are not for everyone, but I absolutely love our beginners to be a part of our recitals. It gives them a look into their future as a musician, and it gives them a goal to work towards. Our more advanced students get to see how far they have come as they listen to the beginners. Let's share the love of music together!