Here are 7 breakthrough ideas to transform your recital experiences, COVID conditions or not...
SuperNova SuperString Spectacular, a virtual showcase featuring NINE pre-college programs performing re-imagined, genre-hopping arrangements of Suzuki tunes, premiered November 14, 2020 (recorded access available through Nov 29 if you'd still like to check it out).
Though this world-premier event—more movie than recital—had a particularly unique function, part of my goal was to model a variety of meaningful innovations worthy of consideration for any recital.
1. LET THEM SPEAK!
Many traditional events feature no words, just playing. When there is speaking, the voice is typically that of the teacher(s).
But students have a lot to say.
Inviting them to talk can empower, inform, and inspire. Each SuperString "act" was tasked with two activities:
Offer a MUSICAL statement
Offer a SPOKEN statement
What these incredible students communicated verbally was just as meaningful as their performance.
The only constraint was DURATION: spoken interludes were limited to two minutes (around the same length as most pieces).
Content was up to them. Clearly, groups spent time carefully considering the optimal approach. It was fascinating to observe the different directions they took. All were captivating.
Various messages addressed:
Why they love music
What they love about their academy
What they love about the piece performed
Challenges/new elements their piece introduced
Stylistic performance considerations
Past experiences (tours, music camps, etc.)
Thanking health care workers
Life at home
How students fill their days during the pandemic
Incidentally, here are some things we did NOT hear: composer dates, bios, other historic data.
A soundtrack was added to support each spoken statement. Doing so brings propulsion, energy, and excitement, while introducing additional music content.
2. ROLL THE CAMERA
During a pandemic where social distancing is mandated and crowds are disallowed, music videos are the primary way performers share art.
Yet even if everything miraculously returns to the way things were, I advocate integrating video production throughout music education. After all, it provides:
A creative opportunity for custom designing personalized artistic statements, even if music is performed "authentically" as many others have before
A fun activity that engages students
A tool for analysis and critique
A platform for sharing with a larger audience
A powerful promotional item for studios/programs
A memento that can cherished for decades
Most (all?) of the SuperString programs had not previously produced videos (beyond filming live action on a stage). They were nervous about putting it together, making a cohesive statement, matching typical quality standards. Yet all took a chance.
Some hired a professional editor. Others relied on program alumni. In at least one case, the production mastermind was a 12-year-old student. Every group got it done.
The results were stunning. Each video is a true work of art.
Just as exciting, several ensembles concluded that the experience was so positive and community strengthening that video production will remain central moving forward.
Food for thought: Though SuperString videos featured groups, this is also a powerful individual assignment.
3. SHAKE UP THE STYLE
Historically, many music programs have offered an almost exclusively single-genre, classical music education.