recital etiquette question

Cynthia Moore said: May 10, 2014
 4 posts

My daughter, who is at the end of Suzuki 4, was asked by a parent to accompany/harmonize with her daughter on several pieces during their daughter's Suzuki 1 recital. The teacher also played along on cello but there were no other child musicians. My daughter was a bit reluctant to do it, as she is very busy with other activities, and she's a little shy to perform. However, I thought it important to support a younger child's achievement and our tiny local music community, so I had her do it. The pieces weren't so hard to learn, but she did have to take time to practice them, meet with the other girl a few times and, of of course, commit a Friday evening to the recital itself.

During the recital the parents and teacher talked a lot about the other girl's progress and her enthusiasm for music (which is great.) Before playing each piece the girl herself read from a detailed script about each composer, piece, and how the music makes her feel. The point I'm making is that this was not a rushed event. My daughter is well known to these parents and the teacher. (The teacher was my child's teacher for Suzuki I, then "graduated" her to another teacher as she primarily teaches cello.) However, in all of this there was no introduction or words of thanks to my daughter nor was her name in the printed program. As an afterthought, the teacher leaned over to whisper to the child during the middle of the performance and the child mumbled "Oh, the second violin is "my daughter's name." There were at least 40 people at this event, with a reception afterwards in which I heard everyone congratulating the other child. Am I being oversensitive in thinking these parents were rude? In no way did I want my daughter to steal the limelight, but, gee, isn't a brief, public word of thanks the customary thing? My daughter is not a diva type, but now she is even more reluctant to perform in the future. Comments? Thanks for listening .

Sue Hunt said: May 11, 2014
Sue HuntViola, Violin
403 posts

Of course, she should have been recognised, but how often do you see a child soloist fail to recognise an accompanist? This requires a little more maturity and self-confidence then I would expect from a book 1 recitalist who is also introducing the programme.

When everybody is focussed on the star soloist, others can inadvertently be forgotten. Book recitals are very important milestones for a student, and it is my guess that celebrating the younger child's success was everyone's focus.

When you perform to an audience, you are, first and foremost, giving them a beautiful gift. Whatever you give, you will receive, but… not always from the recipient of your gift.

Merietta Oviatt said: May 11, 2014
Merietta OviattViolin, Suzuki in the Schools, Cello, Viola
Stevens Point, WI
107 posts

I completely agree with Sue. You are correct in assuming that your daughter should have both been acknowledged as well as had her name printed in the program. However, the focus for everyone is on the primary student and the accomplishment she has made to finish her book and graduate.

What I would do is take this as a learning opportunity: make sure that your daughter always acknowledges her accompanist and people who help her with her recitals. We can only make this etiquette known by making it a regular occurrence by ourselves and our friends.

As far as the recital, you will always catch more bees with honey—meaning you should be very positive and congratulatory to everyone else involved with the recital. Remind your daughter that now she knows all of these duet parts (a GREAT thing to know!), and perhaps now she could advertise to the same teacher to do it for a small fee for other students (just like the accompanist). Tell the old teacher how much fun she had and how she appreciated the opportunity to learn those pieces. Try to turn this annoyance into a big positive! Good luck, and congratulations to your daughter on learning all of those amazing duets!

Dr. Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Specialist
Viola/Violin Instructor
Aber Suzuki Center, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
[javascript protected email address]

Cynthia Moore said: May 12, 2014
 4 posts

Thank you for your perspective, and I will try to keep that in mind. My complaint was not with the child, however (she is lovely.) Nor, BTW, with the teacher. It is with the parents, who had obviously planned and scripted this event in great detail, did a lot of the speaking themselves, and had held up many pages of typed script for their daughter to read, who thanked the audience for coming, yet evidently had put no thought to script in an acknowledgement of a child who had spent time and effort helping. These are cultured, high functioning people who have reason to know better. I would never ask another person (let alone a child) to devote time to a cause of mine if I were unwilling to show a bit of appreciation. I don't think a brief word of thanks would have taken focus off of their child; it would have put the family in a good light for their manners.

As to catching more flies with honey, I do agree. I was cordial with the parents and child at the reception. I am just saying it stung. I want my daughter to be community-minded but not a doormat. She is extremely busy with other activities and had to make a big effort to squeeze time
out to practice with the other child for this event.

Cynthia Moore said: May 12, 2014
 4 posts

…And thank you, Sue and Merietta for responding. I know you also took time out to do so!

Cathy Hargrave said: May 12, 2014
 Teacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Rowlett, TX
51 posts

I don't think you are being too sensitive at all. Your child should have been recognized publicly at the performance and mentioned in the program. I am a pianist and cannot tell you how many times I have accompanied and been completely overlooked. Sometimes the accompaniments are much harder than the soloist's part and you get no gratitude at all. Just last summer I put on a 5 Piano event with a chamber orchestra, conductor from South Texas, students from around the country, rented a hall, had a reception and completely neglected to acknowledge the composer of all the arrangements. It didn't even dawn on me or anyone else in the planning that we had committed such a HUGE oversight until a colleague in the audience pointed it out to me after the performance. Was I ever appalled at myself!!

It is so easy to get caught up in all the preparations and the actual event that you forget to acknowledge the supporting players and people. I would give the parents and teacher the benefit of the doubt and in the future, maybe remind the teacher and/or parents to please acknowledge your daughter. I am sure they didn't neglect your daughter intentionally.

Cynthia Moore said: May 12, 2014
 4 posts

Thank you, Cathy!

I think it hurt because my daughter and I are fairly quiet people who don't generally try to shine a spotlight on ourselves. Does this somehow send a signal that she is to remain in the shadows? I would not feel comfortable asking in advance to have her recognized…isn't this something that people know to do without being coached?

I will try to be gracious, and hope it was just an oversight of the parents. Thanks, Cathy, for pointing out your own oversight. I do think that people in general should not enlist the time and services of a child accompanist unless they intended to make a conscious effort to acknowledge him/her. It may be very appropriate for a child to be a supportive side player, but only as an appreciated one. Anything else, I feel, teaches a child that her lot in life is to not be treated with respect and kindness.

I know this is a bit of a vent, but I had no one else I felt I could say anything to (I live in a very small community.) Thanks again.

Courtney Morgan said: Jun 29, 2014
Smithville, MO
9 posts

So, the parents of the Book I recital planned the event, chose the accompanist, and emceed? Even if they were violinists themselves, I would not have allowed that to happen in my studio and would not have been part of it happening outside of my studio. The thing is, hosting a recital is an art that I learned from managing an orchestra and attending numerous recitals (my own, my sisters’ those of friends) to observe. Being a parent does not give anyone the qualifications, and I would not want an event over which I had no control to be connected to my studio. Maybe I’m just thinking from a marketing perspective since that is my job for our company, but reputation is everything in ensuring the studio continues to thrive.

It sounds like these parents did fail to acknowledge your daughter’s efforts, but they also did not structure the recital in such a way that acknowledgement was even practical. There are two appropriate times to acknowledge your accompanist. The first is to print their name in the program. The second is to physically gesture to them at the end of the performance and allow them to bow. If you are breaking up the performance with scripted speeches and notes about the composer (in a book where most of the composers are either unknown or Suzuki, so that must have been repetitive), this acknowledgement would have to occur after every single piece. That would seem like a little much to the audience, as if your daughter really were trying to steal the show. The way I would do an event like this would be to perhaps have a time at the beginning or during the reception for the parents to speak if that was important to them, but only those playing instruments would be on stage and the recital would progress from beginning to end with no interruption. We would then end with a bow that would include the acknowledgement of the accompanist.

Something I suspect a lot of teachers fail to teach and that we have somewhat lost sight of in our culture: taking a bow is a gesture of respect and humility. It is a thank you to the audience, to the parents and teacher, and to anyone else who helped pave the way for the performance. That is why acknowledgements belong right after the bow. It is why the conductor of an orchestra takes his bow first, then gestures for the soloists to bow, and finally the entire orchestra to stand. By doing so, the accompaniment is acknowledged at a higher level, and the performer communicates a message of “I could not have done this without you.”

By saying “the second violinist is [your daughter’s name],” there was no such gesture. Yes, the audience got to hear her name, but she was not praised by such an announcement. As a parent, it is only natural for you to be a bit upset by that. However, you have a choice in how you communicate this to your daughter. It is a learning experience, and if she is made to feel as if she got cheated, that is not fair to her as a musician because this event was not about her. The violinist is used to being center stage as part of our training, but as professionals or in other life roles for those who choose not to become professionals, there is not room for everyone to be center stage. We therefore should all have the opportunity to play second violin, both with and without the proper acknowledgement. The life lessons learned through violin lessons that teachers promote to new students are best learned away from the spotlight.

Kim said: Jun 29, 2014
 39 posts

I have a book 7 pianist and a late book 4 violinist too. Absolutely, your child should have been acknowledged. My pianist has even received a small gift for some volunteer performances like this. I think the other family wasn’t being very gracious by not at least having the child write out a thank you note.

We have gotten a bit picky about what we will do along these lines lately. I often think, what will my child gain by doing this? Is it just for fun? How much regular practice time it will require? I don’t have kids that are practicing hours on their own and they like to keep moving in their regular repertoire. It’s not about acknowledgment so much as knowing that my kids will enjoy and/or grow from the experience and not resent the time spent. I have a couple stories where I think my kids were taken advantage of to perform for events. Don’t be afraid to say no in the future, especially if your child didn’t enjoy it. Sometimes my kids surprise me and enjoy things that completely annoy me on the other hand. :)

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