It is recital season and most of us are busy preparing for the big day.
If you have an inclusive studio and you teach children with different abilities and needs, recitals can become slightly tricky.
What I have noticed repeatedly is that almost all students,with the exception of most students with special needs (and sometimes their parents), love to participate and look forward to recitals and they consider these events as fun.
Because I love to see all my students, including my special needs students, participate I try my best to encourage and persuade them as well as their parents to take part, regardless of their level and their ability. After all, the recital is about the students and is a great educational tool rather than a marketing tool to make my studio look perfect and the performance flawless.
Why students with special needs should be included in your piano recitals:
Including students with special needs in your recitals will help your students feel included and welcome, especially that in some other aspects of their lives they may feel excluded and discriminated against.
Recitals are a great opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments and give them a chance to feel successful and show off their talents and strengths.
Preparing, perfecting and refining a piece gives your students a goal to aim for and work towards.
Performing in recitals is a wonderful opportunity for your students to experience genuine praise and this has a great impact on enhancing their self esteem.
Recitals are a genuine demonstration to students with difficulties that they matter and their participation in musical activities is valued.
Including all students in your recital helps other typical students to respect diversity, which in turn creates a more welcoming environment to all.
Children with disabilities learn from participating in these social events, making them more likely to develop appropriate social and communication skills.
What to expect when you include everyone in your recitals:
Not all the children will sit quietly during the whole program. Children are usually fidgety and find it difficult to sit quietly for a long period of time, children with ADHD even more so.
A student might decide not to participate in the last minute. I have had happen a couple of times, the student gets overwhelmed by the noise and sounds and opts out at the last minute.
A student might become overwhelmed by the noise and number of people and will need to leave early to prevent a meltdown. I have had some parents leave early because their children couldn't sit through the whole recital which was around 40 minutes long.
Some students will need to arrive with their parents and cannot arrive prior to the recital time. So they will have no pre-recital preparation time at all.
Some students will need help during the performance. For example, I sometimes need to point on the page while the student is performing.
How to plan for the best possible inclusive recital:
Hopefully, by the time of your recital you have already gotten to know your students well enough to anticipate their behaviours. That being said, you should still be open for unexpected surprises.
Here are some guidelines I always go by while preparing for my recitals:
While planning the program, schedule first the students that you anticipate might not handle the noise and the busy environment very well. Not only that, but also expect that you might have to do last minute changes. Be flexible. Be supportive if these families need to leave early even while other students are performing.
If possible, have an older student be the helper if some of your students need help during his or her performance.
Allow fidgety students to sit with their parents during the recital so that their behaviour doesn't become too disruptive to the other students.
Have the program printed out earlier and give it to the parents who will come together with their children exactly at the recital time so that they are completely ready and aware of their participation time.
It is completely fine if not everything goes as planned and you experience some unpleasant surprises. Who said that life should be perfect.
Lastly, enjoy your big day! Students look forward to recitals and are a very rewarding and fun way to end their school year and show off their hard work and progress to their family and friends.