Recitals and concerts abound at schools, churches and private lesson studios. With a little guidance, you can make these performing opportunities positive experiences for your child.
Parents of my young students often ask how they should prepare their children for my recital party. And ... yes, it is a party – it’s a celebration of music!
The following tips help children look forward to sharing their developing talents with others:
1. Help Your Child to Be Prepared!
Good preparation (otherwise known as PRACTICE!!) is the foundation of a happy performance. Our fingers (and voices) can almost go on “auto-pilot” when given enough good (correct) repetition. Practice doesn’t have to mean drudgery, however! Be creative in finding opportunities for your child to “play” (or sing) his/her music lots in the days leading up to the performance. Some Suggestions:
- Have your child give you a concert each day.
- If a friend comes over for a play date, have your child give a “special performance” for the friend.
- Pretending to be famous musicians can be a fun activity!
- Help gather favorite stuffed animals as the audience for a concert.
I often use piano practice for leverage against my son’s insatiable desire to play Wii – “Please play some piano before you play the next game!” – works like a charm, for now!
2. Help When Asked, “What If I Make a Mistake?”
Is your child an over-achieving perfectionist? Remind your child that we are human beings, not robots, and that we ALL make mistakes. We should learn from our mistakes and try not to make the same ones over and over again.
3. Remind Your Child That When Learning a Song, It Is Best to Stop and Fix Mistakes.
Our fingers learn patterns very quickly. If we allow our fingers to play the wrong thing, they will think that’s what they’re supposed to do! Then we have to show our fingers the right way – more times right than they’ve been allowed to play wrong.
4. When Practicing a Song to Perform, Your Child Should Try to Play All the Way Through Without Stopping.
Expect mistakes – just encourage fewer mistakes the next time.
Always assure your child that you love listening to the practices and performances ... NO MATTER WHAT!
5. Never Ask Your Child, “Are You Nervous?” – Instead, Ask, “Are You Excited?”
Children don’t usually think about being “nervous” until someone (like you!) mentions it to them. Many may not even know what the word means. Let’s keep it that way for as long as possible!
6. Replace the Word “Nervous” with “Excited” In Your Family’s Vocabulary –Every Time!
Pretend it’s a bad word. Treat it like it’s profanity. If you catch each other using this “n” word, say, “You mean excited!” Why? Our bodies physically react to feeling “nervous” and to feeling “excited” in much the same ways:
Our hearts race
We get sweaty palms Our faces blush
Our voices waver ...
What’s the difference?
“Nervous” feels bad – scary, dreadful, uncomfortable, wanting to go and hide ... “Excited” feels good – exciting, happy, ecstatic, wanting to jump for joy ... Our brains determine which emotions we should feel – nervous, excited, happy, sad , mad, ... – based on feedback from our surroundings, and then send the message to the rest of our bodies. If we can convince our brains that we are “excited” and not “nervous,” we stand a fighting chance to conquer our stage fright!
7. Don’t Expect Nerves to Completely Go Away – If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em!
Many times as I pace and jitter before a performance, people tell me, “Don’t be nervous – you’re going to do great! There’s nothing to be nervous about!” Even though I am well-prepared and my practices sound great – I often still get nervous (ummm, ... “excited” I mean!).
Many times I manage to keep calm before a performance, only to have my “excitement” arrive right smack in the middle of the performance! My bow may begin to shake, my legs may tremble, my fingers can fumble over piano keys, my heart races, my face gets flushed ... I cannot seem to turn the excitement on or off at will. So now, I practice being “excited” while I practice.
8. Help Your Child PracticeWhile Feeling “Excited”
Do things which mimic the body’s response to being “excited” (remember, we’re not even going to say that “n” word any more!). This technique is effective, too, in preparation for speeches, tests, presentations, etc ...
Have your child do the following (you, too!):
Do 10 vigorous jumping jacks (or more, if needed to raise heart rate), then immediately pick up the instrument or sit at the piano and play the performance piece (or read your speech, or sing your song!).
Your child will then learn to control breathing, shaking, racing heart etc... and learn to play well while the body is reacting this way. When it happens during a performance, it won’t be as shocking or scary.
Developing this control allows us to play through the “excitement” in order to give a good performance.
9. Give Your Child Praise For The Performance – Within Reason
Do applaud the performance with the rest of the audience, and give your child smiles and hugs.
Don’t go overboard, however, with what a perfect performance it was and with exaggerated parental praise. Do be sure to tell them that you really enjoyed listening to and watching the performance.
Do tell them that you really look forward to the next performance!
My family developed a tradition of going out for dessert after performances. I always looked forward to stopping in at Dairy Queen, in my concert clothes, for a treat!
You don’t have to get something to eat, but do find something your child will look forward to as a celebration of their performance. It is quite an accomplishment to perform for others!
Hopefully your child will be excited about the next performance, too! BRAVO!!