A Recital Preparation Guide
Let’s talk recitals. They’re really hard and also really fun. In my time here, I’ve gone through the process four times. And I’m lucky enough to say I’ve experienced a miracle of sorts with recital prep: Each recital has gotten progressively less scary for me!
They say it gets easier, though, so maybe I’m no special case. So as I prepare for my final solo recital at U of I, I want to take a lookback at the good, the bad, the ugly, and the flutistry.
Freshman recital: I remember I got my dress with my mom when I was home on spring break. It was knee length and floral, and I remember thinking I needed it to be something I could wear again. Actually, I did wear it again, for my engagement photos last month. However, I also recall I didn’t send my programs to print until a week after they were due, I woofed on my ability to play a piece that I didn’t *really* have together technically or expressively, and I cared much too much about who would show up. And when they all did show up, packed right in front of my face in Smith Memorial Room, I panicked! My sound rose in my chest so that it didn’t spin. The musicianship was fine, but I didn’t feel like I was playing as myself.
Sophomore recital: I did a 180 and didn’t have my clothing picked out until a couple of days before the performance, and I was cutting it close (at best) for weather appropriate garb in late November. I was ready and prepared, sounding great, until the one piece I didn’t like as much as the others. Instead of diving into it and getting it over with, I put it on the backburner. And it showed badly. Thankfully, it wasn’t the last piece on the program. My sound was much better and I remember I even set up a live stream for my parents in Virginia. But problem in test trial two was that the sound quality on Facebook live was absolutely atrocious, and I couldn’t stop focusing on the camera or how it was set up. Nerves were at about 50 percent of what they were the previous year. And I had a duet partner towards the middle to balance things out, so it felt less like standing on a melting iceberg alone.
Junior recital: I’m lucky that I slid in under the wire for a Covid times performance. Not many people got to do that. And this one was much, much better than previous years. Surprisingly, my nerves went away. It all sort of melted into excitement. I think this time was different because of the way I prepared. The amount of practice didn’t change, but I made it a goal to listen to each piece each day so that if I couldn’t get it under my fingers, it was at least in my brain. The music was much harder, so I remember thinking “oh gosh, Dr. Keeble is going to cancel my recital, I’m not ready, I’m not ready…” And he didn’t cancel, and all went well. But...my video recorder died after the first movement of my first work in the first half, so needless to say, I didn’t get to study or listen to that performance.
Senior recital: I’m still working on it. This one is different, since I’m applying to grad school around the same time as my recital. Things feel much busier. But there are things I have been doing in the last couple weeks. I have been listening to each piece each day and finding different artists for recordings. Also, I’ve added practicing page turns to my routine. There’s nothing to make your stomach drop like missing an entrance due to a faulty page turn. And I’ve been singing parts of the music as well. I think to avoid panic, I have to find my own voice within the flute. Not saying it’s perfect, because it isn’t, but it feels more natural this way. I’ve also made it a goal to touch each piece each day, so that even if they’re not flawless, they’re all able to bring something to the audience in equal measure.
Then there are the things I’ll never do again I won’t record for myself. I will have someone else do that, since my job is to play the flute. I’m going to pick out a dress and practice in my shoes in about a week, so I have plenty of time to get used to the feeling. And I promised myself that while I’ll tell people about my recital, I’ll leave it up to them to watch the performance, and not up to me to watch the audience. More confidence equals less nerves, I’ve found, and so the last thing to do is think about what the audience might be thinking. That’s their job, and I have to remind myself of my job: do my best!