How to Plan a Virtual Piano Recital Without Stress (Step-By-Step)

How To Host a Virtual Piano Recital – Part 2

Hosting a virtual recital, much like an in-person recital, has many moving parts.  The nice part is that many of these parts are the same regardless of the format! After hosting my first in-person recital … and the sheer exhaustion afterwards, I’ve been on a mission to plan a recital without stress. Thankfully it has become much easier over the years and I’ll be sharing the tips and tricks that have made planning much, much easier.

P.S. This is part 2 of a series covering virtual or online recitals.  Be sure to read about choosing the right type of virtual recital and marketing or to clients/teachers in Part 1. Just like this article, you can use the ideas for in-person recitals when you are trying out something new in the format or activities.

Virtual Recitals 101

While virtual recital have become more common, there are several types to choose from. This means that it’s a good idea to let students and clients know what their responsibilities will be before, during and after. This is one of the main ways to plan a recital without stress.

I’m not sure about you, but I become a bit of a drill sergeant when it’s recital day.  I have my clipboard, checklists and everyone in the family is given specific jobs to take care of.  This is so I can focus in on tech issues.  Because there are always tech issues. And, it’s my job to fix them.

While I’m sure my family is relieved when the recital begins because I’m too busy to give them more tasks, their help means that our studio recital stays light-hearted, fun and social.

By taking the same approach to hosting a virtual recital, my clients will (hopefully) get that same light-hearted, fun and social atmosphere as our in-person event.

Below I’ll be guiding you through the before, during and after of hosting a virtual recital.  I’m writing “clients” in the sections below for ease, but you can apply these same steps to any teachers that may be working for you.

Before the Recital

When a family is doing a recital in your studio for the first time what do you do?  When want to plan recital without stress, this includes the families in your studio.

Set clear expectations right from the start. This makes everyone’s life so much easier. And, it makes for better teacher-client relationships.

Spend a little extra time guiding them through the process from start to finish.  And, make sure first time students know exactly what to expect both before, during and after the recital.

This is the same as hosting a virtual recital.  The only difference is that you are dealing with more technology.

Thank goodness we have options of companies that make this much easier on us by taking care of all the programming!

Your Client’s Responsibilities

Make a list of what clients are required to.  Will they need to:

  • Record their child(ren) playing their pieces and send those videos to you?
  • RSVP by a certain date?
  • Ensure any invited family guests are also RSVP-ing with you as well?
  • Use a particular device?
  • Download an app?
  • Go through a run-through with you before the recital date?

Let your clients know they should NOT use cell phones to attend the recital.  At least if that is the device that will show their child performing. The screens are too small and more often than not the speakers just don’t do justice for the performances.

Make it a family event with everyone attending the recital.  This builds excitement and community within your studio.

This also ensures that no one is streaming YouTube videos or watching their favourite streaming service (i.e. Netflix, Disney+).

In-Person Tweaks

If you are hosting an in-person recital, how can you adapt these tips? Almost all of those question above apply to in-person as well.

  • Recording songs in case someone is late or can’t attend
  • RSVP (both studio families and their guests) so you know how many refreshments to prepare
  • Run-through during lesson for first time performers
  • If you are using an app for audience engagement, getting that set up in lesson rather than at the event

That last one is really important. I can tell you from experience it is never a good idea to spring tech on parents last minute. Some will have no issues. Others can use your whole recital getting tech help from you to set it up … or feel resentful that you moved on without them. To plan your recital without stress, it starts with getting these types of things set up during lesson time.

Your Responsibilities

Just like an in-person recital, hosting a virtual recital can feel a little like you are a swan on the water.  Looking graceful as you flow through the water, while below your legs are furiously paddling to get you from point A to point B.

And, at least in a virtual recital your clients won’t get to see you run from place to place. This is where organizing your epic recital prep to-do list becomes so important.

Here is my biggest piece of advice when working with technology.
Have a backup plan.  Then, have a backup plan for that plan.

I love technology.  But, I also understand that Murphy’s Law will probably hit at the worst possible time.  Like during the recital when everyone’s eyes are on me.

Before hosting a virtual recital, make sure you:

  • Test out the features of whichever program you are using.
    • Do this with people who are NOT in your home.  You will get a lot of feedback if the testing is all happening on the same network and same home.
  • Set up the security features of that program so you are less likely to be hacked.
  • Get everything for your plan, backup plan and backup-backup plan on the device you are using for the recital.
    • I would recommend using your computer or a laptop.  Not only do you typically have more features available within streaming programs, but there is more space to store all your videos, images, etc.
  • Make any visuals or handouts for all attendees (this includes for teachers that work for you) that guide them through how the recital will work.

As much as we want to focus on the positives, thinking about possible tech issues will save you a lot of frustration.  This is the second part to plan a recital without stress.

Remember you are the swan on that screen.  No one needs to know you madly ‘paddled’ to solve those “unexpected” tech problems beforehand.  

On the plus side, your clients will be impressed you are handling the technology with aplomb.

In-Person Tweak:

For in-person recitals, here are the lessons to keep in mind:

  • Test out tech beforehand
  • Have a backup plan
  • Have a process that guides attendees and performers with minimal effort on your part

One year, I had a beautiful PowerPoint presentation for our in-person recital. It worked perfectly on my computer, iPad and streaming to our TV. When I got to the venue and used their computer … it turned all the intro videos sideways and ignored the audio. And, no amount of fixing was working. Thankfully I had my iPad and connector cables. Unfortunately, the church’s projector system was so old that they couldn’t connect. My husband drove home, dug out some other cables and we were able to fix at least the audio and getting the videos on the screen. But, they still stayed sideways. Tech happens regardless of the type of recital. And, at least we got a good neck stretch that year!

During the Recital

A lot of clients, students and guests will wonder if the etiquette or expectations will be different between a virtual recital vs. an in-person recital. If we don’t share that beforehand, the whole idea of planning a recital without stress goes out the window. Because the event itself becomes stressful.

In terms of etiquette, the expectation are the same whether in-person or online.
Listen to others as they play, be respectful/encouraging in your comments, and have fun!

Your job at this point is to make attendees feel welcome and smoothly guide them through the event.

When hosting our studio recitals (both in-person and online), I’ve imagined it’s like hosting a dinner party. You want everyone to feel comfortable and enjoy themselves. Even if the recipe that was only supposed to take 15 minutes in the oven suddenly takes 30 minutes and it’s thrown off the timing of everything else.

At the start of the recital, go through any expectations and tips with everyone. 

Let them know:

  • How the recital will flow
    • Keeping track of who’s turn it is: they watch the recital program or you let them know in the chatbox
    • Introductions: you or your students
  • Who to contact if they are having audio/video issues and how to do contact that person.
    • Give tips to improve their connection before they contact you.
  • What the backup plan is if the internet connection goes down.
    • If you are doing a live stream of the pieces, have a way to convert everything into an on-demand playlist that can be sent out as a last resort.

In-Person Tweaks:

There aren’t many changes for during the recital. Especially if your focus was to plan your recital without stress and you covered all the things before.

  • Controlling the flow of the recital keeps everyone engaged. This includes intros and when students come up to the instrument.
  • There are always unexpected issues. Who do they talk to? You or someone else?
  • Having a backup plan is key. See the above point.

One year, one of my piano moms let me know her son wanted to play in the recital. Right before the recital started. This may seem like an awkward situation, but we had prepared a song just in case and left it up to him whether he was ready. He is on the autism spectrum and hadn’t been able to even sit through the previous recitals, let alone play in them.

Since it was highly probably he wouldn’t play, I didn’t include him on the program. But, when they let me know he wanted to play … I introduced him as a surprise performer. It was a way to plan the recital without stress, but keep things fluid enough that he could join in when he was ready. Now he loves playing each recital and has grown in confidence with both his playing and introducing himself!

Hosting a recital, whether that’s in-person or virtual, is about setting expectations, guiding everyone without them realizing it and letting them know what to do if there is an issue.

After the Recital

Recitals in my studio have always been a social event.  We gather to visit over refreshments and catch up from the last time we saw each other.

If you choose to do an interactive recital (see part 1 for the different types), this is especially important. This will be the most challenging part as you plan a virtual recital. The natural inclination will be to leave as soon as you are done talking.

When I did in-person recitals, I tended to run around to tidy up after students finish playing before going to visit with clients.  And every year my husband came in and told me to go “work the room”.  He reminded me that at this point in the recital my job is not the background details.

When your last student plays their piece your job is to build that sense of community and make sure everyone leaves the event with a smile.

You need to “work the room” so your clients and students leave ready to tell everyone how much they enjoyed getting together as a studio.

Think about what usually happens at your in-person recital.  How can you recreate something similar online?

Once all students have finished their pieces, what happens?

Do you:

  • Say goodbye and end the event?
  • Have a way for people to interact online?
  • Direct them to another offline activity to do as a family?

Guiding your clients and students from the first moment to the last moment of your virtual recital is sure to make it a success.

Make It Fun and Build Community

The best way to get buy-in from clients is to make it easy for them to join in.  The other part of that equation is to make it a fun event for everyone.

Why do clients and students attend recitals?

Hopefully not because it’s a required part of being in the studio and something that needs to be endured each year. That’s not your studio, right?

Clients and students attend because it’s a supportive event where:

  • Student get to share their music with others
  • Parents get bragging rights
  • Guests get a glimpse into what their loved ones have been doing the past year

And, let’s face it, there are also a lot of “Oh my goodness!  I can’t believe how much you’ve grown from last year!” comments afterwards as well.

Ideas to Build Community

Hopefully you have activities that bring up the fun factor each year while also building community.

When your studio is online, building a community is incredibly important.

Why keep going to piano lessons if it’s not fun?

What’s the point in re-registering if it’s just another year of your child sitting alone at a piano?

But, when students are having fun?  When parents are cheering on not only their kids, but everyone’s?  That is when your clients will look at your studio as an integral part of their family’s life.

Some ideas are:

  • Special action after a student plays:  Turning on the audio for applause after each student could quickly go wrong when you forget to turn off the audio.  But, having a special action that students can see on the screen after they play replaces the usual applause.
  • Compliment cards: These are more important than ever when students can’t see the audience’s reaction or hear their applause.
  • Chatbox encouragement:  Keep all comments ‘public’ within your studio community.  Turn off the ability to chat privately for participants.

The last idea worked incredibly well in my studio’s virtual recital. Except that I had forgotten to record the recital for the first time. It was disappointing and something I will create a post-it note to place on my screen this next time around. And, while I couldn’t access those chat comments because that oversight on my part, the kids and parents loved it! It was great getting that feedback in real time rather than waiting until our next lesson to find out all the wonderful things people had to say.

Remember this is not about more work for you.  When you plan a recital without stress it has the balance between getting the nitty gritty details taken care of and creating an encouraging space that students and their families want to share with others.

That Something Special

I always like to include a little something special each year at the recital.  And that isn’t any different with our virtual recitals. But I also don’t want to stress while planning a recital.

Because your clients and students are having a little social distancing during the recital, it is important to do something above and beyond.

It also happens to be a fantastic marketing idea.

Physical vs. Digital

Depending on your situation, you may lean towards a physical product that clients get later or a digital product that is sent at that moment or later.

Digital gifts could be:

  • Student compositions: Digitally notated them to make them look all “fancy-schmancy”, always wows the socks off students, parents, grandparents, friends … you get the idea
  • Your compositions:  Students love music their teachers have written and because you wrote it you have the right to send it digitally
  • E-Gift Card:  If sending something physical to your families is not possible, an e-gift card can work well.
  • Access to music apps:  Whether it is accessible through a teacher subscription or purchasing an app for them this is great.
    • To “gift” an app, you need to be signed out of the iTunes store so it doesn’t show as something you’ve purchased.  Then, you will have the option to “gift” the app.  (This is from a while ago so please let me know in the comments if this has changed.)

Notice almost all of the digital gifts are music based.

Normally I would not worry too much whether the special something was entirely musical.  But unless you are there to make the connection for your clients, it’s better to make sure the connection is abundantly clear why they are getting the gift after attending a recital.  As opposed to other events they attend.

Planning a Recital Without Stress

I hope the idea of hosting a virtual recital seems much more approachable with a clear plan from beginning to end. Remember the goal is to always plan the recital without stress!

Which tip will help you avoid stress while planning a recital?

Let me know in the comments!

NOTE: This article was originally published on April 22, 2020. It’s since been updated to include tips for not just virtual/online recitals, but how these can be used for in-person recitals as well!

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