How to create a great recital audience

At this time I expect that most students are busy practicing to give the best recital performance they can. We owe it to them to make ourselves aware of what it takes to provide them with the best audience possible. These points, while simple to actuate, all make a vast difference in the whole experience.

Being a good audience member requires us to do something that most of us have precious little time to do anywhere else. Basically, all we ask is that you sit quietly, relax and listen. Being at a recital gives you the opportunity to unplug, turn off your devices, breathe deeply, clear your mind and get into an almost meditative state. Each recital is only about an hour long, and for that hour, the rest of the world can wait.

For some of us doing nothing can be difficult. We are so used to running around in a constant state of connectedness that it has become unnatural for us to relax either our bodies or our minds. But, honestly, tranquility is really good for us. So, being a good audience member is not only beneficial to the performers but healthy for the audience member too.

The performer needs to be able to focus. Focus is arguably the most important attribute of the student in their ability to execute a fine performance. I know this on a very personal level. As some of you know I am a cello student. I am a member of a volunteer orchestra, the South Jersey Pops, as well as an amateur quartet and I have no problem performing with either. However it is nearly an impossible feat for me to perform at one of our own music school recitals. Why? As the hostess of the event, I simply can’t turn off the stream of details and thoughts running through my mind. And, as long as those thoughts are monopolizing my ability to focus, it doesn’t matter how prepared I am, I simply can’t perform!

Obviously the situation I just described is my own issue, one that only I can remedy. I use it only to help to illustrate how crucial focus is to performance. I know that none of us would intentionally do anything to hamper any student’s presentation of their recital piece.  But we can get caught up in the moment and inadvertently do any number of distracting things without even realizing it.

Here are some of the things that we can try to avoid as an audience member, all of which will be easier if we arrive at recitals with a positive mindset. We are all there to support the efforts of all of the performers. Of course, the most important performance is that of our own child(ren) and we recognize that. Since we would not want anyone do anything to compromise our child’s focus we would want to return that favor.

You might think that your whispers or other muted sounds are not an issue. Or that the only concern is cell phone ringers. Unfortunately that is not the case. Talking and/or whispering, walking or running around, opening and closing the door leading out to the lobby, noodling/fidgeting with the instrument in your lap, noisily turning the pages of your book or your music, opening candy wrappers, all create unnecessary distractions.

On the subject of small children, please know that they are always welcome as long as there is someone present to see to their needs. We understand the importance of family togetherness and would not suggest doing anything to compromise that.  Special memories are more meaningful when the whole family is present. It is easy to accept occasional happy baby sounds however an outburst from a young person who simply does not know any better can interrupt a student’s focus. Please know that temporarily removing an upset baby or toddler to the lobby will often be all it takes though do be cognizant of the fact that some louder sounds will travel through the closed doors.

We are well aware of the fact that young preschool aged children, attending the recital of their older sibling(s) might do best with some silent diversion to occupy them. It is our hope that the rest of us can be positive role models by sitting quietly without the need for diversions and giving the youngsters around us something to aspire to.

In publishing this post the intent is really to make the recital experience better for everyone present. All of our lives can be enriched by giving our focused attention to musical performance whether the performers are our children or professional musicians.





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