Recital Fiasco

said: Jun 22, 2006
 1 posts

We just returned from our twin’s third time at a Suzuki Institute. This was the first time I signed them up for the volunteer recitals because I felt so proud of their progress during the last year. We are all very slow learners—and finally we were getting to the end of violin book 1 (note: it took us over a year to learn—not master—the twinkles). Their teacher signed off on our selection of pieces, and I was comfortable that they would have the pieces polished since they had played them in one recital late in the spring which gave us time to practice them more before institute. Unfortunately both my husband and my work schedules and year-end activities disrupted our plans, and we did not have much focus on violin during the weeks before institute. I felt like the worst mother sending my children onto stage without the right level of preparation. The children managed through their pieces—the accompanist was stellar. But they were far from polished and their playing was a stark contrast to the other students who played. The experience left me feeling so embarrassed and inadequate as a Suzuki parent. I still cringe at the thought and feel terrible.

Question: Should I have cancelled their performance at the last minute or should I have changed the piece to a much earlier piece to ensure that kids were 100% confident with it? I know the right answer is prepare more in the future. I have learned my lesson—but any other suggestions would be helpful.

said: Jun 22, 2006
 122 posts

I would have either cancelled the performance on the recital or changed the peice. Though many institutes though won’t allow the student to change the peice they have signed up for. I don’t think it does anything for the child’s confidence to perform when she is unprepared. However, this is in the past so try not to beat yourself up! Just use this as education for the future. What an amazing parent you must be to involve your children and yourself in the Suzuki experience, both in the every day lessons and practicing as well as attending the institute :D

“When love is deep, much can be accomplished.”
-Shinichi Suzuki

said: Jun 23, 2006
 26 posts

PLEASE don’t feel like the worst mother!! You simply don’t know what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ in those other families. Just because you think your children’s performances weren’t as good, doesn’t mean the other children all had really positive experiences.

Hang in there! I was a ‘Suzuki kid’ (one of four children, and two of us are now Suzuki teachers) and I know my mum felt the way you do many many times!!! Each experience, positive and not-so-positive, helped us grow as people and musicians, and we all turned out fine! We weren’t really fast learners either (particularly my brother—in ten years of lessons he got through book 1, book 2 and half of book 3—but at the age of 28, he still plays his cello!)

Anyway, in the short term, don’t make a big deal of this experience, and try not to let on how you feel. Tell your kids that you are proud of how well they managed on the day, considering how little time they were able to devote to practising in the lead up.

If there’s a sense of ‘unfinished business’ at the moment, why not polish the pieces for performance at a local hospital or stage a small concert for some friends and relatives?

And now it’s happened, I’d use this whole thing as a really useful learning experience. In the medium term, you can use this experience to remind your children of the importance of regular practice/revision/studying over a period of time, rather than a mad rush of effort directly before a deadline. This is something which many kids have trouble with, particularly school work. It’s good to have some concrete experiences to refer to when you’re trying to get them to study for a test which ‘isn’t till next week’!!

Good luck, and enjoy preparing for the next recital!

said: Jun 23, 2006
 89 posts

Do the kids share your concerns?

I bet it wasn’t half as bad as you think it was. :)

said: Jun 24, 2006
 104 posts

I think it is very important for you to uncover your children’s feelings about the performance. As other posters mentioned, they may not feel as you do. YOUR feelings about their performance are a separate issue from THEIR feelings about it. Make sure they don’t pick up on your comparison to the other performers, because it may have sounded completely different to THEIR ears.

As a parent, I like to see my child playing a polished piece accurately at about 95% of home practice sessions before I would encourage them to play it publicly. In the situation you described in your post, you state that you signed them up to play pieces you felt confident they “would have” polished. My own opinion is that it’s iimpossible to predeict how long it will take a child to polish any piece (slow OR fast learner) and so I wouldn’t sign them up for any piece unless they already do have it polished. Signing up for a piece you feel you will have polished in time is like spending money you feel will earn in the future—it leads to trouble.

On the bright side, you have a great learning experience behind you now. You’ll be so much better prepared to make a decision about future recital pieces. Good luck!

Jennifer Visick said: Jun 25, 2006
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1069 posts

as their home teacher, the level of attention and scrutiny you place on your children’s performance is probably higher than that of anyone else (save, perhaps, your teacher). I have often come away from a recital in which a few of my students have played, and I know that I was most interested in what other people thought of my students—I had hardly any spare thoughts for students who were NOT my own (terrible, I know). All this to point out that it may not be quite as bad as you perceived.

…. as for the question: I have allowed my students to change pieces to something they are more confident and ready to perform as close as the week before an upcoming recital, if they do not feel prepared. It is questionable whether or not the Institute would have allowed this, though it may have been worth a try.

Also, I question whether an Institute would allow you to cancel as well, since they have usually placed people carefully to fill up a certain amount of time. I suppose it depends on the organization.

when all is said and done: ‘If you fall of a horse, get right back on!’

said: Jun 25, 2006
 104 posts

Frankly, if it came down to it, and I felt that a piece was not ready for public performance and I was at an Institute where they did not allow changes or “allow” cancellations—I would rather decline the performance opportunity (saying that my child wasn’t feeling 100%) than have the child go ahead and have a disasterous performance. I have seen children have nightmare recitals (I’ve never seen it in a Suzuki setting, but I have seen at least one per recital at our traditional conservatory) and nightmare recitals (the kind where the child blanks out and has long pauses of dead silence which build into an insurmountable “blank-out”) can be truly devastating. Now, it doesn’t sound like Modelmom’s kids had that kind of experience at their institute, but I don’t agree with a program where you “can’t” cancel. These kids are not professional performers—if at the last minute they feel like backing out, they are certainly entitled to that option. These kids aren’t in chamber music and they aren’t performing advanced repertoire—they are Book 1—which qualifies them as beginners. I say tell the program coordinators your child isn’t feeling well and cancel—and don’t feel bad about it because at institutes there are doezens of kids ready to play whatever needs to be played to round out a program. Your own child’s self-esteem and musical confidence are at stake. No one’s going to miss the 1,000th performance of Minuet 1 at a Suzuki conert.

said: Jun 25, 2006
 122 posts

The institutes I know allow cancellations but not peice changes. This is primarily due to the fact that creating programs and recital length issues would be a mess if people changed the peice they signed up for, plus if it was an advanced student it might create issues with the accompanist. Also, the institute in my area requires the home teacher to sign off on the peice as part of the institute application, so changing this creates a bit of an organization nightmare. I agree with profcornelia-it would be ridiculous for any organization that young kids or beginngers/intermediate players are a part of to not allow cancellations. As a program coordinator I can understand not allowing changes though :D

“When love is deep, much can be accomplished.”
-Shinichi Suzuki

said: Jun 26, 2006
 7 posts

I hope you are feeling better by now, modelmom. I think most of us have an experience similar to yours—trying to do the best we can and then just letting something in the area of preparation get away from us. I agree with former posters who posited the theory that the recital was harder on you than it was on your children (how old are the twins, btw?). Recital fiascos will happen. Your kids got up there and performed and didn’t give up. Good for them.

said: Aug 17, 2006
 1 posts

I actually did cancel my DD at her volunteer recital. She is only five and wanted really to play but the night before I just felt like she was so tired and just not mature enough to get up there and play without her home teacher there to help her. The institute was really good about it too. They were fine and acted as if it happens all the time. She was really good about it too…I was very glad she didn’t play. Now she has a better idea for next year.

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