How to Plan a Compositon recital….and avoid the stress that can come along with it

As just about  any music major can attest to, planning a  recital is a lot of work. As a Composition Major at YSU, I have had the required opportunity to plan two of them (so far) in my academic career. Recitals in general will always require some type of assessment usually known as a jury/ hearing, that must be played in front of a committee as  a preview of the recital before permission is granted to go ahead and plan the main event. The experience can be nerve racking for any musician. However, the Composition recital is unique in that, not only does the student composer have to make sure that the scores are pristine when  presenting them to the jury committee; They must rely on others to play their music at an acceptable level and coordinate the musicians by themselves. In short, when in this position, you not only compose the music but you become a  concert manager, secretary, and presenter and advocate for your own music. Depending on the nature of the pieces, you as the composer may also become a performer of your own work as well.

Step 1: Start Early

What I mean by this is do not procrastinate when planning. As I’ve stated before it is a lot more work than it may seem at first. Get the deadline dates of latest possible jury and recital dates and the number of days that you have to submit program info between the end of the hearing and recital and WRITE THEM DOWN IN A CENTRAL LOCATION that you can refer to. Don’t forget to get names of people that you may need to submit this information to as well. I advise getting a binder to keep all materials such as jury paperwork that may need to be signed at the hearing by the jury, dates, and eventual schedules. If you can, get this information the semester before your anticipated recital date.

Step 2: Read all paperwork for requirements and begin selecting potential pieces

Keep in mind how long the program needs to be and how long each piece you have in mind is.

Step 3: Begin selecting players

I advise to write down all instruments that will be required in each piece in a list format. For example:
Bastet’s Lullaby:

1Harp

1Piano/ Tambourine (I put these together  as one person who could play both)

1Voice

Then begin by listing potential  musician friends that would work together well on your piece.If you can, try to keep it limited to as few actual personnel as possible. (in this last experience, I had the situation where, due to musicians’ busy schedules and realizing that it would be unfair to ask any one person to learn more than two of my pieces along with their other degree requirements, there were 23 people involved in my senior recital and it was a nightmare to plan). Keep this in mind when selecting pieces.

Step 3: Contact the potentials

If they say no, do not hound them. This is one of the fastest ways to annoy and loose the respect of the musicians who very well may be the ones who could recommend or hire you in the future. Remember, they are busy people too. Please allow at least a month before the hearing to give them ample time to learn your music.

Tip: if you have ensemble pieces with standard instrumentation, ask the ensembles that are already set up first as they probably already have set rehearsal schedules. This worked very well for Matt’s Music (a brass quintet).Also, it helps if the musician has played your piece before.

Step 4: Get Everyone’s schedules

….and keep them on file with the ensembles for your pieces that they are in. This comes in handy when scheduling rehearsals. It is likely that you will have to organize them and keep them in communication with each other so that rehearsals happen. Also, don’t be surprised if it is you who has to  reserve the room they are to rehearse in. After all, they are doing you a favor.

Step 5: Select potential dates for the hearing and Recital

Doodle polls work great for this. I had 5 dates and multiple potential times picked for each and had everyone involved fill out when they would be able to make it and went from there. The potential times and dates were picked out of the results of examining all schedules for free times. However, how you do this is up to you but always double check with everyone involved before scheduling anything.

Step 6 Find Venues and select a Jury

After you have your potential Hearingdate figured out, find an acceptable committee and ask them which out of these times they can make. Then, reserve the space well ahead of time so there is no last minute fumbling for a location. Do this for your Recital location as well (not forgetting to allow at least an hour of time before and after the concert to allow for setup and the reception/tear down). I advise allowing at least 3 weeks between the Jury and Recital date in case something happens at the jury where you have to do something over again in order to pass.

Step 7 Contact all players again

Let them know these dates times and places and KEEP REMINDING THEM. Do this for your jury committee as well. If you wish to have it recorded professionally, you will need to contact these people too.

Step 8 Print our all scores- at least 1 copy of each for the jury committee members.

It also looks better if you have a set plan and put the scores in the order in which they will be heard.

If you can, keep extra parts on hand as well as you just never know when music can get lost before a performance. Assuming that you pass (which you probably will if you took the time to get all ducks in a row), the fun part begins.

Step 9- plan the program and submit information

Keep in mind length of pieces and what feels natural to a concert flow. It helps for stage setup and tear down if you can put pieces together that have the same players or stand set up. Also, decide if you want an intermission and where to put this.

Pleas from a brass player: If your recital is particularly long and there is no intermission where a brass player can warm up. PLEASE avoid having us play toward the end, as the chops don’t always respond at their best when sitting for long periods and there is no guarantee that your piece will not be effected by this fact. Though warm up time is also helpful to woodwind players, they have the advantage of silently soaking the reed in their mouth where as we can’t warm up much more quietly than making fart noises through our mouthpieces.-end rant

Step 10: Advertise

Make recital posters with all information- Date, time, venue,and if you plan on having a reception (free food draws crowds). Post them all over the music building and anywhere else that is appropriate. If you want a bigger crowd, ask friends to advertise and hand out posters as well.

Making a Facebook event page and inviting anyone you can think of is a great way to get the word out as well. After all, the people who have seen you progress will want to know so they can come out and support you.

 Step 11: Have the recital

Congratulations! You have made it to the ultimate prize.

If you are comfortable talking about your pieces, great. If not, program notes are a big help. A friend can take on the MC duties as well if you prefer.

On recital day, make sure that there are enough stands for your players and that the programs have been picked up. Arrive early and bring your extra parts. prepare for the worst, and expect the best.

 

Final Advice: While all of this planning is going on, try to find time to thank the musicians for working on the music and encourage them. Also, if questions come up from them, mark them in your scores and make sure they are corrected before the hearing. Don’t forget to have fun, be flexible and keep a sense of humor during this process. Refer to Step 1 to keep stress minimal. Happy planning and Composing!

 

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