Main Line Music Teachers Discuss the Value of Student Recitals

Main Line School always holds a music recital December before the holidays, and this year the recital took place last weekend at Eastern University.  Music students of all ages, levels, instruments and styles are encouraged to take part in the recitals.  Students get to choose the pieces they would like to perform, how they perform and how they choose to present themselves.   While some students may dress comfortably in jeans, sneakers and t-shirts, or guitar and drum students may wear their coolest rock and roll gear, other students are dressed in their holiday best: full 3-piece suits for the boys, elaborate dresses for the girls. The ages range from barely out of toddler-hood to school-age children, teens, adults and seniors, and the styles performed are everything from heavy metal to Beatles to classical compositions to original songs written by students.  You may see teenagers (male and female) shredding on the guitar or pounding the drums to a punk rock backing track, or young, serious, impeccably dressed children playing classical pieces on the piano and violin, and young singers performing show tunes. There will be preschool-aged children just starting out on their musical path.   The variety of the style, level, age and appearance is fascinating to watch, and gives the audience a sense of the individuality and unique identity of each student.  It also creates an atmosphere of openness and acceptance. Says teacher Andrew Behringer, “it is a very loose, care-free environment, no one’s judging you, no one is winning or losing, it’s just people getting together to show where they are at. And it’s interesting because there are all different instruments, all different skill levels, and you get to hear where everyone else is at.”

guitar_2We spoke with some of the Main Line music teachers to get their feedback on why they think live performance and participation in the music recitals are important.  Teacher Anna Sgambato acts as MC for the music recitals, offering a special compliment for each participant after their performance. Anna teaches multiple instruments from piano to strings and woodwinds, and truly believes that music can change the world. She is a proponent of recital participation for quite a few reasons. “A recital performance can help you to come out of your shell, especially for a shy child.  It will help you learn to keep your cool in a stressful situation and this will build self-confidence.  Students will also develop self-control and the understanding of how to handle themselves with poise and grace.”  Anna believes that attire and stage etiquette is important. She teaches her students to own their stage performance, to take a bow afterwards, and appropriate outfits to wear on stage.  Goal-setting and practice are other benefits of the recital, according to Anna, “having that deadline that you know you will need your piece ready for teaches you to set goals and deadlines, something that has been lost a bit in today’s society.  It also inspires you to practice more than normal, since you have to have your piece ready for the recital.”

voice_4Jamie Wunder, a piano and voice teacher at the school as well as music director for a local church, works very hard every year to not only put together a well-prepared group of students for the recital, but to ensure their performances run smoothly. Jamie is onstage with most of her students, helping with accompaniments, moral support and page turning. “There are many reasons why recitals are good for students.” Jamie says, “First and foremost it gives the student a sense of responsibility, accomplishment, and importance.” She believes that feeling of importance inspires many students to want to continue working with their instruments. She continues, “It is important for parents to see their children succeed and understand the value of music lessons. Recitals also help parents see what their child has been working on and has accomplished so far.”  Jamie explains that recitals are also good for teachers, “to keep ourselves up to date and ‘in tune’ with our students, and to continue to give them a purpose to keep coming back to their lessons.”  She sums up her point of view with this statement, “These moments make someone face their fears, have courage, and feel important even if only for a few minutes. They help shape us as musicians and performers.”

Andrew Behringer teaches guitar and piano, but he specializes in bringing out the creative spirit in his students. He encourages his students to write their own songs and experiment with improvisation. He makes a point of being on stage with every one of his students, accompanying them on guitar, setting up microphones and amps, tuning them up and adjusting volume. He often records accompaniment tracks to help his students feel more comfortable performing and, if his students enjoy singing, he suggests that they sing along with their guitar or piano playing.  “The recitals are always a lot of fun,” says Andrew, “and I never had a student who didn’t enjoy doing them.”  He encourages his students with these inspirational words, “I always say if you have any inclination to perform in the future or if this is something you are looking to get into, take this opportunity.  It’s not a competition; it’s about you personally showing off what you’ve accomplished. You’ll have plenty of time to prepare for it and get something that you’re really confident with, and it’s up to you how serious you want to take it.”  Andrew discusses the preparation that goes into learning a song for live performance, “I consider it a different level of learning”, he says, “you may have a song that is just in your repertoire, but you’ll have to get the song to what I call ‘performance level’, which entails spending the extra time on a song to get it as close to flawless as possible. It’s not something we do with every piece.”  Furthermore, he believes that performing teaches the important lesson ‘the show must go on’, “Once you start playing you have to keep going. It is very different from practicing alone. If you want to play with a band, or with anyone else at all, you know that once the song starts, there is no stopping or re-starting.”

drums_1Julie Susi teaches voice and piano lessons at Main Line School, and when she is not teaching she is working as a professional opera singer. Julie takes what she has learned in her experience auditioning and working with stage directors to assist her students in developing their own stage skills.  “It’s a good way to get experience performing in a safe environment, because everyone wants you to succeed; to show off all of the hard work you put into your instrument, to show people how talented you are, and to share an expression of yourself with others.  Stage performance helps my students develop their self-esteem and a build a higher sense of self-worth.  They did something they didn’t think they could do, and they want to do it again. I feel like it also helps them to cope with anxiety and nerves.”

If you, or a child of yours, is a music student, we hope this blog will help you understand the value of live performance,  as well as the unique setting that Main Line School provides for students to express themselves and share what they’ve learned in a low-pressure environment.  The hard work of our music teachers and students pays off for years to come in a multitude of ways.

To watch videos from past Main Line School Music Recitals click here

More information about the diverse and unique team of dedicated music teachers: click here