Canadian Flutist and Teacher
Preparation tips for a highschool senior flute recital
Here are some pointers when planning a senior highschool level flute recital.
1. The most common mistake is to plan to perform repertoire works that are really difficult, or too many of high-level difficulty in the same recital program. The trickiest pieces in the flute repertoire are better choices for University level flute recitals. All of us want to show off the most tricky and challenging pieces in the flute repertoire, but we should space out the really exhausting ones. .I once had a student who was planning her first third-year recital for her Bachelor of Music Program, and asked: "What do you think of this? Carmen Fantasy, Dutillieux, J.S. Bach unaccompanied Aminor, Prokofiev and the Taktakishivili?
I answered: "What do you think of having several nervous breakdowns followed by lying on the recital floor all grey-faced, ambulence sirens blaring way, and wondering: To whom was I trying to prove that I was super-human??" :>)
Over ambitious planning is fine for fun, but as the time for the recital approaches, if the pieces are not appropriate and if they are difficult to play up to tempo, the result can be mental stress and pure exhaustion just prior to the recital (too much high-level practicing required with almost no time left to get the pieces right.) Also remember that if you have too many exhausting pieces in a row, they'll be even MORE exhausting when you're playing them "at your very best" and giving all your energy to the audience. It's not the same level of energy drain as in your practice room, it's about three TIMES the energy drain. So....
Instead: Consult with your private teacher and choose repertoire that is appropriate. It should be:
a) well within your grasp given the preparation and practice time-frame you are dealing with (ie: if the recital is a year away vs. if the recital is four months away.)
b) appropriate for your own individual technical level on the flute (ie: don't play Carmen Fantasy by Borne which is very tiring and very difficult, if you already have chosen another piece that is very tiring and very difficult. There is no harm in having two or more non-virtuoso level pieces to space out more challenging and tiring works.)
c) is a mixture of audience pleasers and educationally-interesting works (ie: it's best to avoid all-Baroque, or all-obscure, or all-extended -technique, unless you know your audience will all be flutists and teachers. Try and have a "something for everyone" programme if it's a public recital.)
Note: If you are short on cash, include a few choices that do not require to pay an accompanist. ie: unaccompanied works for solo flutes.
d) A good idea is always to begin with a fairly easy and well-known piece (not necessarily your Bach ball-buster! :>) so that you'll get past any adrenaline shakes and nerves while playing a piece that you know as well as the back of your hand. :>) Always include at least two pieces that are restful to you like this.
2. Do your research well in advance (up to a year ahead of time.)
Things you can do:
a) Book a professional accompanist for the date of the recital; For best results use the best accompanist you can afford as they will HELP you during the recital rather than hold you back like a fellow student can, and also require less rehearsals to set correct tempi and style. Ask your private teacher who they best recommend. Also, remember you may need a page turner, and make sure you have booked them also.
b) Order your sheetmusic in advance. Once you and your teacher have chosen the music, order your own copies so that you can study the piano parts while listening to CDs of your pieces, and/or can know in advance that you have all the sheetmusic you'll need for the recital. Some pieces *do* go out of print or can be hard to locate at the last minute.
c) Research your composers in advance so that you can use the information you learn to expand your understanding of the flute pieces BEFORE you learn them, or AS you're learning them. Knowing about the composer's other works, and listening to the composer's other works really helps you create an informed performance with lots of artistic depth.
d) Attend other recitals in the same venue (or hall) and witness the acoustics, the sight lines etc. The best research you can do is to attend the recitals of other music students in order to find out what works and what doesn't. Make a point of attending as many recitals as you can in other venues too, given by professional musicians coming to town, in the year prior to your senior recital. You will learn just from witnessing these events, how to make your own recitals a success.
3. Investigate flute techniques and other related exercises and studies that will help with the repertoire you've chosen. Examples:
a) If one or more of your pieces has double-tonguing, flutter-tonguing, or other technique that you don't already perform well, ask your teacher for specific exercises and studies that you can use to perfect this technique alongside of working on it in the piece itself.
b) If you practice a solo piece too long, you can begin to find it dull, uninspiring, and get tired of it too quickly. Check with your private teacher for studies and exercises that will develop your playing alongside of the recital repertoire you've chosen. Examples: Studies that require long sustained phrases, or exercises in intonation and matching pitches with a piano will train you perform these skills without burning out on your repertoire pieces.
c) Take the year to develop your dynamics, your tone colours, your articulations, note endings, fast fingers, extended techniques, and your phrasing. To read more about these skills, see my "method books for advanced flutists" list. Take time too to read about artists and their methods, to read books written by flutists that describe their most successful ideas, and to visit dance productions, theatrical productions, competitions and recitals of other instrumentalists, and to go to lots of concerts. All this will enrich your own ability to perform meaningfully.
4. If you've never performed a recital before, here are some ideas:
a) Double up with a fellow musician and SHARE the recital. You will only have to prepare half the pieces, and can add a duet or two to the programme.
b) Plan on pre-performing one or more pieces from your recital at home for friends and family, or at an alternate location (churches, community halls etc.)
c) If you are worried about stage fright, there are lots of helpful articles on the net and here on this site.
d) Use your private lessons to your best advantage by planning your recital as well as you can, and then getting your private teacher's input on how much to practice, HOW to practice, WHAT to practice, and how to get some more experience performing in public prior to the recital. Your teacher might suggest other performance opportunities throughout the year, prior to your senior recital. The more performing you do, the easier your recital will seem, and the more preparation-know-how you'll have for planning and playing public performances.
e) Remember to plan a written program for the audience, and to find an eye-catching piece of artwork for your recital poster (if you're using posters). If you doodle around with program ideas and poster ideas from time to time, and keep your best results stored on the computer, you can print posters and programs out more quickly from templates you've already created in advance. Study the effective posters and programs you see for other musical/theatrical events.
For more "How to plan a recital info." by various music departments at Universities etc., check out these links:
Shelley Collins on books and practicing for college flute students (look ahead to the well-rounded types of work that flutists do at the next level above highschool. Start working like a college student EARLY. :>) see:
Student recital checklists from Music Universities:
Publications on planning recitals:
Flutist Christine E.
Beard's articles on recital planning:
"Tricks of the Trade: Selecting Music for Recitals." Published by Flute Talk magazine. December 2004.
"How to Prepare for All-Region & All-State Auditions." Published by Flutewise Magazine. Autumn 2001. (UK publication).
The above magazines may be
obtained from the publishers, from your private flute teacher, if they
subscribe, from a nearby University with a music library, and/or by
asking for friends on the net to email you a scanned copy
Here is a checklist for the last few weeks before, and for the flute recital itself:
1. Go through
your final selections carefully, one per practice
10. Prior to the
recital date itself you may want to get more sleep,
11. Be prepared
backstage with a glass of water, a kleenex or two, and
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Copyright © 2005 Jennifer Cluff