Why Vocal Recitals Aren’t Just for Kids
What picture comes to mind when you think of a vocal recital, piano recital, or even a dance recital? I’ll bet you see a charming little girl in an oh-so-adorable dress (with a bow in her hair, of course), singing a very sweet rendition of Mary Had A Little Lamb, or something similar. Or, you imagine a little boy looking uncomfortable in an ill-fitting suit, having to be lifted onto the piano bench to carefully play the thousandth version of Chopsticks you’ve heard that day. Perhaps at the dance recital you envision an army of toddler ballerinas in pink tutus, clumsily but very endearingly toeing their way across the stage? Well, think again! While of course these types of events still warm the hearts of parents everywhere, recitals are not just for kids anymore!
A combination of the best dictionary definitions defines a recital as “a performance of music, poetry or dance …usually given by one person or a small group of people… for an audience”. If you’ve ever studied a musical instrument or voice privately, your teacher may have held at least one annual recital for his/her students, and asked you to participate. Or, you may have studied at a school or college where there were private music lessons, or even a voice class, that culminated in some type of recital.
But, if you’ve never been a part of a vocal recital, you are truly missing out on a unique growth experience that you’ll remember the rest of your life! And, if you’re already an adult, it will mean even more to you, and produce even greater results…
I have taught students of all ages for over 30 years now, both in my private studio, and at private schools, high schools and colleges with voice programs. But at my home studio, while I have a fair number of high-school and college voice majors, over half my students are adults, ranging in age from their twenties all the way into their eighties! Some have always wanted to sing but never had the chance to study when they were younger, others are coming back to singing after a long hiatus, and quite a few are choral singers who want to improve their voices for group singing, and maybe even audition for a solo or two. Some adult voice students are simply hobbyists, or use their lesson as “me-time”, for stress reduction and pure enjoyment. Whatever the reason, I LOVE teaching adults, and I love it when they sing in my annual Summer Vocal Recital!
So, by now you may be asking, “WHY should I sing in a vocal recital?”. “What’s so great about it?” “Won’t I feel out of place next to those younger singers?” And of course, the biggest issue of all: “I’m scared to sing by myself!”. Let’s calm your nerves, and inspire you to take part in something that will make you so proud of yourself, and spur you on to even greater singing experiences…
- A vocal recital is a uniquely safe environment. In other words, all the singers are in the same boat— nervous, excited, and totally empathetic to the feelings of all the other singers there. Every performer knows what it takes to get up on that stage and put yourself out there, and each one wants you to succeed, just as they want to succeed. Those other singers will be clapping and cheering the loudest for you, just as you will for them.
- Friends and family will love you no matter what. Invite people who are unconditionally supportive of you to share in this experience. They want the best for you, and will be your biggest fans and best audience, no matter what happens on stage.
- Your teacher is rooting for you at every turn. At my studio’s vocal recital, I am out in the audience sending you good vibrations, mouthing the words of your song, and willing your success with every fiber of my being! I have so much respect for your courage and efforts, and I am often brought to tears by the vulnerability and strength that all my singers display. I am so proud of you!
- Your singing will improve immediately. The process of preparing a song for an actual performance, and then having to do it front of others speeds the development of your singing like nothing else. We all need to practice, but when the final goal is a real performance, magical things happen to your voice that never happened before! I’ve always called it the “X-Factor”, long before there ever was a show by that name. Adrenaline kicks in, and then you’re in “The Zone” in a way you never thought possible.
- You develop acting/performance skills. Having a good voice and memorizing your song are not enough. You have to ACT, you have to PERFORM. This is where many singers falter, because we have such a big job just learning to use our vocal instrument, we forget to emote in an external way for the audience. Singing in a vocal recital gives you the chance to experiment and bloom as a singing actor, whose Number One job is to communicate the lyrics to the audience, and to move them with those words! You get to use your eyes, your face, your hands and your body as an extension of your singing instrument.
- You get to work with a terrific accompanist. For many singers, the vocal recital is the first time they get to work with a professional accompanist. You can go to him/her for coaching on your song before the recital (usually for a very reasonable fee), you get to work with him/her at the dress rehearsal, and then you get the terrific payoff of your collaborative efforts at the recital. The accompanist will support you in every way and elevate your singing to new levels of enjoyment and artistry, for both you and the audience!
- You get to experience a new venue. Most voice students sing in a relatively small space—their teacher’s studio, a room in their home, or even in their car! Singing in a recital gives you a chance to perform in a much larger and completely different space, both visually and acoustically. You’ll be amazed at how your voice opens up to fill that space, and how your acting will blossom as well. I’ll never forget how as a young singer, I had the opportunity to work with a fantastic accompanist who played for famous singers around the world. We always rehearsed in his tiny and book-filled living room. When we finally got to the hall where the concert would take place, I started singing in a much freer, more dynamic way. He stopped playing for a moment and said, “Wow, I’ve never heard you sound like that before!”. It was because of the greater space and ringing acoustics in that venue, which inspired me, and allowed me to really let my voice soar!
- You get to perform in ensemble pieces. In my voice studio’s annual recital, I always make sure to have some group pieces to break up all the solo performances. It gives the program some variety, and the audience always enjoys them. But more than that, it gives the singers a chance to work with others and experience the fun of performing as an ensemble, which is new to many of them who don’t already sing in choirs or bands, or who have never been in a musical or opera. Also, every year I have brand-new or very hesitant students who might not yet be ready to sing a solo piece. Duets, trios, quartets and large group pieces give everyone a chance to participate in some way, but without the extra pressure of having to prepare a solo.
- You might get to sing on a microphone. Depending on the style of song you’re singing, the strength of your voice, and the size of the venue in which the recital is being held, you may have the opportunity or need to sing on a microphone. This can be a whole new experience in itself for many singers– see my earlier post: https://singingvoicesuccess.com/2018/06/17/microphone-technique-101/ Singing on a mic can certainly enhance your vocal recital performance. In the medium-sized venue I use for recitals, which has a very live acoustic, I generally do not have my singers use a microphone if they are performing opera, art songs or musical theater. But, if they are singing in a commercial style like pop or jazz, where it would be standard procedure to sing on a mic, I do allow them to perform with a microphone.
- You get to dress up! When you are a performer, the audience has to look at you, as well as hear you. This is your chance to dress up and look as good as you want to sound! Buy a new dress, wear that snazzy suit, get your hair done, wear some fab jewelry— it’s all part of making you feel special for that very special occasion of singing in front of an audience. It shows respect for yourself, respect for your audience, and adds to the memorable experience for everyone. Have people take photos or video of you, and then take pride in how you presented yourself, both vocally and visually.
- You get to observe other singers up close and personal. In addition to the lessons you learn from your own performance, you will absorb so much from observing the other singers in the recital! You’ll see and hear things in their performances that will inspire and instruct you as you continue your singing journey. And, you will realize that you are not alone in your struggles and victories— you’ll see that everyone is working hard, learning, growing, and experimenting with what works, and what doesn’t.
- Your successful performance will improve your entire life. One of the greatest things about singing in a vocal recital is the incredible personal growth that happens, far and above the improvement in your singing and acting skills. Once you have stood on that stage, faced down your fears, and opened your heart and soul to the audience through your song, you become a bigger and better version of yourself, that you can then take in to every other aspect of your life. Nothing else is going to seem very daunting when you know you can get up in front of an audience and sing, really SING.
Convinced to sing in a vocal recital yet? We can all sing into our hairbrush in front of the bathroom mirror, or do our own version of “carpool karaoke”. But the real joy and magic of performing is when you challenge yourself to share it with an audience. Go for it! Singing in the uniquely secure and encouraging atmosphere of a vocal recital could just be your ticket to a whole new world of vocal and personal growth that will enrich your life for years to come!