As we approach the recital season, it is time for music teachers to begin planning the virtual recital. With online music lessons here to stay (even once things return to “normal”), managing a successful virtual recital will provide an important addition to your studio, provide students a goal for practicing and lessons, and offer a performance experience that is valuable and necessary for any musician.
While the virtual format is far from the real deal, the preparation process still teaches the student important musicianship skills. Three of the most common ways to hold virtual recitals are:
1. Live Zoom Recital
This mimics the live performance the closest, as students perform live for the Zoom participants. Pros of this format include the real performance aspect, no editing of videos needed by the teacher, and the live audience feedback. Cons include the lowered performance quality inherent through Zoom such as poor microphone quality, poor video quality, and often disruption through internet lag.
2. Pre-recorded videos
This format requires the teacher to collect videos from recital participants, edit them if needed, and upload them to a YouTube playlist or as one large file. Since these videos are pre-recorded, students sound better thanks to better video and microphone usage. Additionally, there is less pressure as the student can repeat their performance multiple times to capture the best take. Cons of choosing this recital option include the time the teacher would need to spend to edit and upload videos and the fact that many students would only watch a portion of the recital (if any at all).
3. Live watch party over Zoom
This third option attempts to combine the best of the first two options. The pre-recorded video captures a better performance from each student and provides less stress for students and parents alike. By gathering your studio together to watch the videos, there is a sense of community and sharing that is fostered (and you ensure that students watch a portion of the recital). Teachers still need to be able to edit and upload the videos to a YouTube playlist and coordinate a Zoom meeting for the event.
The following tips offer advice for making the event run as smoothly as possible, all while making the whole process simple and enjoyable.
Make sure both students and parents know the recital date and format
Communication is key. Make sure BOTH students and parents know the recital date and format. Do not assume students will tell their parents or vice versa! This way, you also make sure the parents can help their child prepare and record for the recital, or be present for the recital itself.
Discuss recording etiquette beforehand
Just as you would discuss stage etiquette with your student before their first recital, recording etiquette also needs to be discussed. This includes video placement, video background, concert dress, and even providing 5 seconds before and after the recorded video to allow editing if needed. If you decide to hold a live Zoom recital, make sure the student knows how to mute and unmute themselves in addition to the above things.
The best way to learn and remember is to do it. Have you student practice the recording process by doing a recording of their piece and sending it to you for comments. They should make sure to set up the camera exactly how they plan to do for the actual performance and possibly even wear the dress clothes to practice the piece in them beforehand.
Give yourself enough time to collect and edit videos
Not all students will remember or send videos in time, so make sure to give yourself enough buffer time to collect and edit videos. Additionally, some students will occasionally send videos that may not show their best performance, so leave enough time for them to re-record if needed.
And you never know when you internet will suddenly go out!
Grab a colleague to rehearse the Zoom recital meeting beforehand
Once you’ve uploaded the playlist or video to YouTube, rehearse the recital steps with a friend to make sure you know exactly how to use Zoom. This means knowing how to mute or unmute participants, how to enable or disable chat, how to send chat messages to specific people or the general group, how to screen share if needed, how to set up the YouTube playlist so that everyone is watching at the same time, and anything else that might come up in a Zoom meeting with multiple participants.
Have students record or say an introduction before playing
Whether you are choosing the live recital or pre-recorded videos, having students introduce themselves and maybe say a statement will give a personal touch and sense of sharing to the whole experience. This sense of community is extremely important to foster, as music is about sharing as much as it is about learning a skill. Students will be much more likely to continue playing music if they have this sense of community (and even a little healthy competition) with studio mates.
Have students send blooper videos
Who does not like blooper videos??? And we all need a good laugh these days!
Allow students to invite friends and other family members
The bigger the crowd, the better! And who knows, you might even get new student recommendations if word spreads.
Enable chat during the recital to allow students or parents to send comments to the group
Sending words of encouragement or congratulations will really boost your student’s morale and confidence. Students will also be less stressed if other participants are friendly and encouraging, which is helpful for live performances. Just make sure to tell your students NOT to check the chat while they are performing! Also make sure you know how to disable chat in case anything inappropriate is said, although this is highly unlikely to happen especially if the recital is recorded.
The pandemic has really changed the way music lessons are taught, but we must adapt and continue to provide a fulfilling music experience to our students. Having the ability to put on a virtual recital will draw students to you and provide everyone a rewarding milestone during the year. There are many ways to make the process stress-free and fun, so planning ahead will surely allow you and your students to enjoy a wonderful virtual recital.