A Weekend of Student Concerts at Musicologie Lewis Center

Justin T. SwainMusic EducationLeave a Comment

About the Author

Justin T. Swain

Justin is a teacher and performer with a Master of Music in Vocal Performance and a Master of Arts in Vocal Pedagogy. He is the Community Manager of Musicologie Lewis Center and Director of Musicologie U.

This past weekend we celebrated nearly 40 Musicologie voice and piano students in concerts. Saturday members of my own voice studio presented our Second Annual Summer Musical Theatre Cabaret and Sunday afternoon, voice and piano students of Hannah Bullock came together to present their Summer Recital.

Preparing for concerts and recitals under normal circumstances can be challenging, (let alone during the current global crisis we’re facing in the form of combating the pandemic) both for students and for their teachers. There’s the ongoing need to check schedules, confirm performance pieces, and so many other administrative tasks that it easily becomes overwhelming for all involved. Figuring out and coordinating technologies can also be a hassle, but after all is said and done, myself and Hannah, and certainly teachers the world over, agree that the end result justifies the means.

This week I opted to ask Hannah about her experience this past weekend since this was her first virtual concert she’s hosted:

How did your studio recital go? What things went well, and what things could have gone better?

I thought it went really well! Everyone played beautifully, and there weren’t any major hiccups with technology. I even got some feedback from parents that they thought it was a very smooth and natural experience–even via Zoom! I think I was probably most nervous about hosting the whole thing. That was my first experience running a Zoom recital, and I was worried I would somehow mess it up on my end, haha. I think everything went as well as it could have for this first time. However, if I did it again, I’m sure I could make it better from just knowing what to expect!

Why do you feel that participating in performances is important?

Participating in performances is so important, and I encourage all of my students to do it often! There is this stigma that performing is scary and that the audience is only there to judge you. I suppose it can be intimidating to put yourself out there in a moment of vulnerability, but I try to teach my students that performing is a chance to share music with other people–not an opportunity for judgment and hard feelings. It is one of my greatest joys as a musician to be able to experience the power of music with other people, and I try to help my students discover that same joy.

“Performing is a chance to share music with other people.”

How do you personally prepare for concerts/recitals, and how do you deal with uncertainties or anxieties about your performing?

I think most of the time nerves come from feeling somehow unprepared for the performance that is to come. Obviously practicing the piece you are going to perform is a given, but I’ve found that a more complete approach to practicing is extremely helpful when preparing for a performance.

To prepare for a performance, I essentially try to eliminate as many unknowns as possible and practice as much in the context of the performance as I can. For example, do I have to walk out in front of the audience in heels? I can practice that. Do I have to announce myself before I start performing? I can practice that. I also make a point to practice complete run-throughs of my piece(s) without stopping to correct mistakes. In live performance, mistakes are more common than one might think! The true challenge is knowing your music well enough to get back on track and not let your whole performance fall apart from one slip-up.

“To prepare for a performance, I essentially try to eliminate as many unknowns as possible.”

I’ve had the fortune of hosting nearly all of the Musicologie All Star Student Concerts this summer as well as Lewis Center’s 1 Year Anniversary Concert, so I’ve had a ton of practice at hosting student performances via Zoom.

There are so many benefits to participating in performances that I’ve witnessed first-hand as a performer myself, and also for each of my students. Prior to the world going virtual earlier this year, I’ve also had the joy of experiencing numerous in-person student concerts, and have been able to watch my own students’ progress as they are celebrated at each performance, so I want to take a moment to share my own personal thoughts on four benefits of participating in student concerts.

Preparing for performance teaches discipline.

It isn’t always fun when you play or sing through your song for the thirtieth time. Memory slips, self-doubt, and frustration are all things we experience as performers no matter what level we perform at.

Performing teaches problem-solving skills.

What happens if we forget a lyric or hit a wrong note? How do we get back on track and keep going? To tackle such challenges in real-time can be terrifying, but through experiencing making mistakes and finding ways to continue, can be incredibly beneficial for improvising until you’re back on track. I’ve experienced memory slips in performances and had no choice but to keep going. Sometimes I’ve known the language I’m performing in well enough to improvise grammatically correct lyrics until the correct ones resurfaced. In presentations, the improvisatory skills I’ve learned through studying and performing music have been incredibly helpful with keeping my presentation on track.

Making mistakes in performance teaches empathy.

Anyone who has performed has experienced making at least one mistake. As people, it’s only natural to sometimes have the urge when we see something unfavorable happen to laugh, even if it’s uncomfortable laughter for the sake of breaking the silence when it happens. I remember my first major performance meltdown and I felt horrible when I realized someone was laughing. From that day onward I have strived to show empathy to other performers whenever I notice a mistake, as I never want to make someone vulnerable feel what I felt.

Participating in concerts and recitals helps build community and a sense of connection to others.

One of the most beneficial aspects I see for my students regardless of age is helping them connect with other like-minded individuals. Who knows what can bloom from students interacting with one another, or for audience members who are inspired to take up learning an instrument or pursuing a dream of their own. The possibilities are endless.

The next time you have the chance to do so, I encourage you to either attend a performance, support the performer(s), and if you’re so fortunate, participate in an upcoming concert/recital, and tell us about your experience!

Happy music-making, and Happy September!

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