Love it or hate it, the holiday season is here. Thanksgiving just passed, and while you may still be sleepy from all the tryptophan, it’s time to start thinking about your school or music conservatory’s winter recital. As a music educator, this time of year can be very exciting and very intimidating- especially if you’ve never had to plan a winter recital before. From selecting music to deciding on a program theme, here are some tips for putting together a winter recital that’ll leave you with enough energy to deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la la la la la.
Since you’re planning a winter recital, selecting music is the most obvious task. For many music educators, it’s also the most difficult. Do you go with sacred music, religiously- neutral holiday favorites, or a mix of both? To make that decision easier, think about your audience. If you work at a religious school, sacred music won’t cause any issues. If you work at a music conservatory where there’s a mix of religions, consider incorporating a song from each religion so everyone’s included. Finally, if you work at a public school or just don’t want to risk any type of backlash, stick with neutral holiday favorites like “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman”. Other words of advice: kick off the set with something upbeat, and don’t select too many “slow” songs in a row. When in doubt, opt for high-energy classics that everyone knows the words to. You can’t go wrong with sing-alongs!
Choose a Theme
The next step, choosing a theme, should fall into place naturally once you choose your music. For example, if you’re doing an all-Christian set, then a Nativity theme would be suitable. On the other hand, if you’re nixing religious music and focusing on holiday classics, a Santa Claus theme could work just fine. A coherent theme in your music will make your set more enjoyable and exciting, especially if your audience isn’t super familiar with the songs you’ve chosen. Once you’ve decided on a theme, you can expand on it by putting up decorations that match your theme. Take it a step further, and send out invitations that match your theme. If you really want to be fancy, ask your students and their guests to dress according to the theme. Depending on how involved you want the performance to be, consider asking your students to dress in costumes that match the theme and overall mood.
Select a Date
If you’re planning a winter recital for a choir or music group that meets after-school, consider scheduling the recital on the same day as rehearsals. Why? Because your students and their parents are already accustomed to being available during this time. If you schedule your recital on a weekend or a different weekday, try to give at least three weeks’ notice so your audience can clear their schedules. If you think you’ll need some help selecting the date, consider sending home questionnaires with your students or emailing their parents to get some input about which day they’d prefer. If you teach at a school, speak with other instructors about when they’re planning their recitals. The last thing you want to do is accidentally schedule your winter recital the same day as another recital that your students or their parents may feel obligated to attend instead.
Snacks & Drinks
If you’re planning a more formal winter recital where snacks and drinks won’t be served, you can obviously feel free to skip this step. If you’re planning a more casual recital, keep reading. Think about the size of your audience, and whether or not parents and other members of the audience will be bringing food and drinks. For example, if you expect an audience of 50 and the audience doesn’t plan on bringing their own contributions, you’ll need to plan this differently than if the audience is 50 and each parent is in charge of bringing snacks. Try to make (or purchase) some kind of snack food that your audience can enjoy during the performance, and a variety of finger foods and drinks they can enjoy after. Gingerbread cookies, peppermints, and hot chocolate or perennial holiday favorites.
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photo via Jason Vance, CC