Thoughts After My Christmas Recitals (2016)

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This post includes a few (somewhat random) thoughts after the Christmas Recitals I held last Saturday.  The first sections include specific things from this recital and the last section has ideas general to all recitals.


Christmas/Holiday Music Playing As Students Enter


I’m all about little methods that bring big results.  This is one easy thing I tried:

This year I played Christmas music (from a cd) when the families arrived.  I loved this and may do it at every recital from now on!  Students were more relaxed, and it helped to establish a fun and comfortable atmosphere.  While I may not use it at the more formal recitals, this is something I will always keep in mind.


Christmas Presents For My Students


I’m amazed at the effort some teachers make in preparing Christmas presents for their students.  They create beautiful ornaments, inspiring plaques, and a myriad of other things you see daily on the web this time of year.  Honestly, that just isn’t me.


Here are some present ideas that I think are amazing:

  • Compose a piece and give a copy to all students (even better if you or a student plays this piece at the recital)
  • Music books, specifically Christmas music books, for students to sightread (I can do this because I buy all my students’ sheet music.)
  • A list of the students’ accomplishments this year (this one is a ton of work, unless you have the student fill out a sheet throughout the year.)
  • Or even just a simple treat


This year, I decided to give all my students a new Christmas book.  I used the Faber Christmas books, and ordered each student a book at their level.  Because I wanted them to be able to play the books the moment they got home after the recital.  (I like the books in the previous link better than these books)

Here’s a text I got from one parent the morning after the recital:

“Your Christmas presents to the kids are a big hit!  They are fighting over piano time since the recital yesterday :)”

It took much longer than I originally anticipated when I decided to wrap each book individually.  But my wife was amazing (as usual) and offered to wrap the books while I worked on the program.  (see below)

Word of advice: be sure to tell them to open the books when they get home, not put them under tree – One of my major pet-peeves is opening a Christmas-themed Christmas present on Christmas day (eg. Christmas decorations, cd’s, or sheet music).  I know I should be grateful for any present, but I hate opening a present that will just go into storage for 11 months… 🙂


Recital Programs


This year I decided to try out purchasing some recital cover art (see above).  The cover to my program below was made by Andrea West.

If you’re interested in purchasing her collection of Christmas/Winter recital covers go to  It includes a number of different recital covers and costs $4.97 at the time of posting this article.  Of course, you still have to make the rest of the program, but she has a template that you can follow if you like.


Recital Program Order


This year, when I made my recital programs I came up with the Five S’s: siblings, skill, songs, sex, and solos.  I use these to decide the order of the program and who to put in what recital (if you hold more than one recital).


A brief explanation of each:

  • Siblings: I almost always put siblings in the same recital (might also apply to cousins)
  • Skill: Do you order your students easiest skill level to hardest or mix it around?
  • Songs: If more than one student is playing the same piece, don’t put them next to each other.
  • Sex (gender): Not as crucial, but I like to mix up the boys and girls.
  • Solos: If you have duets in the recital, are you clumping the duets together or mixing them in with solos?


I already warned you this post may seem random.  🙂  Just thought I’d share what’s helped me.


Other Key Takeaways


I never plan recitals longer than 45 minutes, even if I have to plan more than one.  I don’t like long recitals, unless it’s professional level playing.  And the students/parents appreciate it too.  (The

People need to be reminded (honestly, I’ve found there are very few exceptions to this rule).  I send at least two emails the week of a recital and a text message the day of reminding parents of my recital etiquette expectations: arrive 10-15 minutes early, stay the whole time, etc.

Set a date for your students to be “recital-ready”, preferably 2-3 weeks before the recital date.  This helps in multiple ways:

  • Students should be ready by that time anyway so they can practice performing
  • Deadlines can be great motivators
  • Parents have more leverage… “Make sure you practice so you can be ready by November 15.”  Then two weeks later: “Make sure you practice so you can be ready by December 3.”  🙂
  • It’s a life saver if a student misses a lesson or two because of illness
  • It ensures that any natural procrastinators will have some extra time if they aren’t ready.  (I’m one who loves to procrastinate so I understand.)

The “recital-ready” date will have even better results if you have a pre-recital performance.  This can be an actual pre-recital (going to the location and performing), group lessons where students perform for each other, or even just a “recital-ready lesson week” in which students play their pieces in full at the lesson as if in the recital.  (Yeah, I know you probably already do this nearly every week in lessons, but making it “official” helps encourage students to be ready.)

This year, I had a pre-recital: small groups of students met at the recital location on a Saturday to practice playing for me and each other.  I enjoyed it, but it did require a lot of extra time from me.


Have you already had your Christmas/Winter Recital?  What are some things you learned?


  1. Love your idea about Christmas books, but I have a question. Did you use a different book for their recital song? My students already have a Christmas book they learned their recital out of. Did you give them a different book at their level?

    • Great question! I did give my students a different book at the recital, because their recital pieces are above their sight-reading level. Also, many of the recital pieces didn’t come from books, but were individual pieces. Thanks for asking, Valerie!

  2. I love holding Christmas Recitals. Everyone enjoys the Christmas season especially singing along so it helps to motivate the students into good practice and performance techniques. I group the music chosen into themes and address our program with that theme. This year was “Sounds of the Season.” Last year was “Come Celebrate”.

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