What to Wear for a Recital

Recital attire is on of the things that I really get on a soapbox about.  It’s not just the performers, the audience usually needs a few lessons also.  So many things have drifted into the casual realm that we occasionally need a reminder about what to wear.  The performers have invested many hours and should respect themselves and should be respected by the audience.


Let’s start with the ladies attire:

1.  Skirts and Dresses should not be above the knee when standing or seated.  Don’t forget to have someone check the back while you are sitting at the bench.  This one makes me especially crazy.  Many times students forget that the stage or platform is elevated.  What will look good while on a flat floor turns wildly inappropriate when seated 2 feet off the ground.  If you are questioning the length of a skirt or pulling at it then just bypass the issue and pick something else to wear. 

The first skirt pictured is a good length.  Don’t even consider the style just the length.  Any skirt or dress that hits the leg at this point would always be appropriate for a performance.  The second skirt is seriously in danger zone for length.  Now both skirts look very similar in length when standing, but they will appear very different when seated.  The second example will hitch up more in the back and with a side view on an elevated stage things start to get a little risqué.  The third picture pretty much explains it self.  This is way too short.

good skirt            bad skirt      really bad skirt

No where does it say that you need to wear a skirt or a dress.  Dress slacks are a great option.


2.  Dress slacks are a nice choice.  Just make sure they are not too tight or too short in the leg.  My personal favorites are the Kasper brand.  These pants are made of non-wrinkle material and are lined.  They hang beautifully and if you manage to wear a pair out in 5 years or less, I would be very surprised.  There is a Kasper outlet at Concord Mills and they have lots of different colors and patterns for around $35 a pair.  For a slightly more casual and light weight feel, Gap’s perfect trousers are a good example. 

good pants    gap pants


3.  Shirts and Tops offer more flexibility.  To check to see if a shirt is appropriate, sit at the piano and play your piece with someone watching.  If your back or sides are exposed at any point, the attire should head back to the closet.  If you are constantly pulling the neckline because it feels too low, don’t wear it.  If you are uncomfortable or self conscious, the audience will be as well.  Also, try to avoid anything that lets your bra straps peek out.  The public doesn’t need to see underwear. 


4.  Hair, Accessories, Pantyhose and Shoes

Topics every girl hates.  It is hard enough to have a good hair day without your piano teacher’s input.  However, you have worked extremely hard on your music and your parents are sitting through 35 other performances just to hear you.  Make sure that we can see your smiling face.  At the very least pull your hair back on the side that faces the audience. 

Keep the accessories to a minimum.  No bracelets or watches or anything else that might distract you or the audience. 

I know all the kids think the idea of wearing pantyhose is the worst idea every.  However, this is a winter recital.  You might consider wearing a pair of tights with your skirt or dress.  They don’t have to be plain either, a pattern without rips is fine or crazy colors are great.

Shoes.  Make sure you can walk in them.  They should be thin soled.  Practice wearing your shoes around the house and playing your pieces.  Some shoes will gape if they aren’t properly broken in.  Then you feel like your shoe is going to fall off while using the pedal. 


Most of my students and parents do an excellent job with wearing appropriate recital attire.  Something things just slip through and we need a reminder.  Later this week, I will review on article from the NMTA magazine that talks about how your attire affects the audience’s view of your performance.  Tomorrow we will blog about the guys and their fashion options.

It’s Beginning to Look A lot Like Christmas

I have been neglecting the blog at bit the past few weeks.  Getting all of the students ready for the winter recitals and practicing accompanying music has been taking quite a bit of my time. 


Last Tuesday was our first day of Thanksgiving vacation and my birthday.   My students kept me entertained last week by guessing how old I was going to be.  I learned from this that they will guess approximately however old their parents are.  The good news for me is that all of those guess starting with 3 or 4 aren’t true quite yet. 


Since we were on break, I got out my many storage boxes of Christmas decorations and began getting into the festive spirit.  This year we have 5 Christmas trees.  I have obviously lost my mind.  So here are some pictures of what Ms. Heather accomplished over Thanksgiving break.  I did tweak some of them to give a more realistic hue than my poor point and shoot camera can offer.


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These are pictures from my Victorian themed tree in the formal dining room.  The room is billiard green and just screamed for green, gold and mauve decorations.


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The blue and white tree is in the master bedroom.  When I was small my mom made a beautiful white wreath with blue and silver trimmings.  I always said that when I got my own house, I would have an entire tree in this theme.  So the tree is decked out in white and blue lights with blue, silver and white trimmings.


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This is the main tree in the family room.  This tree has all of the ornaments that Wayne and I collected growing up and the new ones that keep jumping into my shopping basket every year.  The tree topper is an old fashioned glassed bubble type thing.  My parents still have the one we used growing up and mom found me this one for my first tree the year Wayne and I got married.


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The Charlie Brown tree.  This tree is in one of the guest rooms and holds all of those lovely ornaments that we made in childhood.  Tacky would be a kind way of putting it.


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Last but not least is the music tree.  This tree is in my home studio.  It holds all of my music ornaments that my parents bought me and those that my students have given me.  The first ornament pictured was given to me last year by my cousin who lives in London.  Every year they go to the Christmas markets in Germany and she bring me a new ornament at Christmas.  This is a hand painted bell.  The musical staff ornament was given to me by Wayne last year after Christmas.  He loves to find a sale and he found this Baldwin piece for 1/2 price. 


So there you go.  There are lots of other trimmings around the house and of course the house is decorated outside but I thought I’d share my trees with you.  Hopefully you have enjoyed seeing how I spent part of my Thanksgiving break. 

It’s all in the details

Recently, I was thinking about how different all my students are in the aspect of detail orientation.  Some of my students are very careful to not miss notes and to observe articulation markings.  Surprisingly enough, this is not limited to older students who have had more musical experience.  Some of those little guys come in and are determined to get it right.  Other students take more of the bull in a china shop approach.  They rush through the pieces and ignoring the wrong notes, tempo and dynamic markings.  They just don’t want to slow down enough to take in the details.


How I teach lessons depends on how the student performs.  With a  student who is very detail conscious, I can send home the student home with a new piece with very little instruction.  Then we spend more time at the next lesson working out the fine details and musicality.  Those students who take a looser view of the music, require more guidance on the front end of the piece.  We carefully read through the music and correct wrong notes and mark those dynamics. 


Sometimes with new students, it takes a few weeks to find out where the student will fall in the learning process.  So I was wondering if there is a way to predict with new students what type of student they will be.  Right now, I am trying an experiment.  I have created a sheet with 3 different shaped boxes to be colored in.  I have randomly asked students to use a crayon and fill in the boxes.  So far the early results indicate that a student will color with the same attention to details as they would look for in their music. 


It might seem silly, but I see it as part of my job to tailor lessons as closely as possible for each students learning style.  Any help that I can get is great.  When accepting transfer students, those first few lessons are so important.  Having the student feel successful is imperative to creating a long lasting successful teacher/student relationship.  By having a glimpse into the student’s learning style and guiding those lessons along that track from the start can really make a difference. 

Piano Technique Assignment Sheet

I have added my Piano Technique Assignment Sheet under the Resources tab on the website.  I created this form to help me track my student’s progress in their scale practice.  Rather than creating different sheets for the different levels, I have used a table format to indicate the different scales with the appropriate octaves and tempos. 


Each student has a technical requirements sheet in their 3-ring assignment binder.  There are two different ways that this sheet can be filled out.  The first would be to write the date in the box for the indicated scale.  This could be either the date the scale was assigned or the date the scale was completed.  The second way would be to place a check mark by the scale when the student is proficient with the scale.  The second method is the one that I prefer.  I can always look back at the Lesson Assignment Sheet to find out when the student began work on a particular scale. 


When using the table for the minor scales, the teacher can either give new sheets for each form of minor scales or assign the scales as a unit.  I tend to assign the 3 forms of minor scales as a under so that the student can see the differences all at one time. 


I hope to add more technique forms in the future.  If there is a form that you would like to see add or would find useful please let me know.

New Blogging Software and Blog Topics

My wonderful husband has insisted that I try some new ‘easier’ blogging software.  So in the spirit of trying new things, I am asking for ideas.  If there is topic you would like to see covered in the blog, I want to hear about it.  You can either submit your idea via email or through the comments section.  Topics could range from music reading to what is it like to be a professional music teacher.  I look forward to hearing your suggestions!

Musical Editions

The standard classical literature is produced in dozens of different volumes by different publishers. Some of it is good but some if it is just dreadful. So here are my top 3 picks for good editions.

1. G. Henle Verlag- Urtext- these editions are pretty much the best around. Being an Urtext edition there is no additional editing. What the composer wrote is what you get. The draw back to these editions is the price. These books are expensive.

2. Dover Publications- these editions are very clean and are reasonably priced. These are great for students.

3. International Music Company- good quality editions with very clean page layouts. These also are a little on the expensive side but they do have a wide ranging catalog for those hard to find pieces.

Now, my bottom 2 picks for editions.

1. G. Schirmer- this company has a wide ranging catalog at reasonable prices. However, the editing is just dreadful. Excessive amounts of fingering and dynamics make it difficult to know what the composer actually wrote.

2. Alfred Publishing Company- I dislike these editions from an editing and aesthetic standpoint. The editing is very good and accurate but the sheer volume of it is staggering. All the gray shading and endless notes are very visually distracting. These editions are musically sound and would be good for the independent adult musician.

I Seem to Have Lost My Voice

Last week was going well enough until Wednesday night. I came home from work with a case of the grumpies that even a good dinner didn’t fix, and it was all down hill from there. Thursday morning I woke up with a fever and all the accompanying fun. So for the first time in 3 years, I had to cancel a day of lessons.

As a teacher you hate to cancel lessons. You only see your students once a week and for the more advanced students that are preparing for festivals, every week is important.

I am feeling better but seem to have completely lost my voice. Having an extensive background in voice, I know better than to try to talk or even worse, whipser. So my wonderful students are going to have to make out with hand signals, played examples and written notes. I think they are up to the task.