My Case for Formal Recitals

I have heard a lot of stories about piano teachers and their horror stories about recitals.” The stress, anxiety, stage fright, and more.

But here’s a not-so-fun fact.

I was never in a piano recital as a young person.

Imagine that!

My very first solo piano performances were at my college auditions.

I had never played by myself in front of anyone except for my family. Talk about stress.

I had some good teachers but none of them could be bothered with recitals. And after having hosted dozens of them I can see why. It’s a pain!

Especially for teachers. Booking a venue, assigning repertoire, getting everyone prepared. Making sure everyone gets to the right place at the right time, and the venue is ready.

I understand why teachers might not want to hold recitals or might want to make performances very informal.

Read “Why Some Students Have Performance Anxiety”


I am here to make the case for hosting formal recitals at least some of the time.

What is a ‘Formal Recital”

I define a formal recital as one where you dress up and play a polished piece or two in front of a respectful quiet audience. Musicians arrive on time and listen intently to their peers. There is a program, a suitable venue with an acoustic piano in good condition (preferably a quality grand). Musicians bow before and after they play, and the audience applauds. No one leaves early.


I believe there is something valuable about having to get up and present your best work. Especially knowing that others are paying attention to what you sound like.


I also believe that having to face the fear of performing in a formal environment prepares people for a myriad of other stressful situations like tests, job interviews, and performing surgery.

Participating in a formal recital where you must be ‘on point’ builds confidence, resilience, and self-control.

Having to sit quietly and listen to others exercises self-control, patience, and empathy for other performers.

Courteousness and kindness are two qualities that are being deemphasized these days. Formal recitals are a place where these can be taught and preserved.

As our culture becomes more and more relaxed, I think that the tradition of a formal musical performance is something that as musicians we should maintain. This is an integral part of who we are, and a valuable part of our musical culture.

Does that mean we should only host formal recitals and that no other type of playing opportunity is acceptable?

No, I don’t believe so.


Informal Performances

More informal playing ‘gigs’ are also of value.

Music is a part of every culture on earth. It is to be enjoyed alone, in families, in religious traditions, at celebrations, and on and on.

I believe coffee shops, senior homes, and piano parties are a great way for musicians in training to become focused and learn how to play despite distractions.

Playing in church, or forming a band with friends, and accompanying other musicians are all valuable experiences for everyone.

As a teacher I want to provide these opportunities as much as possible and encourage my students to partake in them.


For me, the bottom line is that I would hate to see formal recitals go by the wayside. I will continue to host one or two per year. However, I also think that all performance formats are valuable.


Thankfully, I went to a Public High School with and top-notch music department. I played violin and sang. Although my solo piano experience was lacking, I got to accompany friends and participate in concerts, performances, and festivals through my school district.


I don’t think I would have made it without the chance to play and sing in front of an audience. I also think that my college years and the time when I was getting started in music would have been music easier if I’d had more performing experience.


So, to any teacher going to the trouble of putting on recitals of any kind, I say that’s wonderful! but I will always love seeing my young musicians perform at formal recitals. I hope they never go away.


Take a moment to subscribe to the Paloma Piano Community. With your Free Membership, you can download everything in our free library for your students. No credit card is ever needed.









Comments & Discussion

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *