After the Bow: How to Cope with Post-Recital Letdown

Music majors and minors often experience a significant letdown in the days and weeks following a recital. Students often ask “What next?” or “Is that it?” and may find it difficult to navigate post-recital letdown. Maranatha’s music faculty concur. Experienced performers Lewis Rosove and June Brus both remarked that this letdown is normal due to the amount of time and intense emotional energy expended in preparing for and performing in a recital.

What should students do after a recital? How can they navigate the emotions and unique challenges that surface after the recital is done? How can they use the recital experience to the best possible advantage?

Take Time Off

Believe it or not, it is advisable to take some time off. Having your mind on something different is therapeutic. The length of time varies with the individual, although Ruth Brown recommends a week. The most important thing is to prioritize mental rest. Many musicians find this in participating in non-musical activities such as physical labor, hobbies, or unrelated entertainment. Vladimir de Pachmann, a noted concert pianist of the early 1900s, found relaxation in milking cows.

Evaluate the Recital

Another piece of advice is to evaluate your recital. Brus says, “It helps to think of the recital as just one step in your pursuit of becoming the finest musician you can be.” After some time off, it is wise to objectively evaluate the recital. Listen to the recording. You might be surprised, especially after you have removed yourself from the immediacy of the performance. Rosove recommends noting aspects of the performance that went better than expected, unexpected problems that surfaced, and technical elements that need to be addressed. Brus cautions recitalists not to be overly harsh, realizing that no performance is perfect, even those given by seasoned performers.

Develop a Strategy for Improvement

Recital performances reveal areas that need to be improved. It is important to identify these and consider specific ways that they can be addressed. Perhaps your melody did not “sing” as it should, your rhythm was unsteady, you did not “breathe” at the end of phrases, or your technique was faulty. Specifically recognizing those deficiencies will help pinpoint future learning and streamline future effort.

Locate Intriguing Repertoire and Begin Again

After a short break, most musicians are eager to play their instrument again. Brown says, “This is a time to work on something that would intrigue you. It is also fun to do some duo sight-reading with your teacher and get to know some of the piano duet/duo literature.” Brus adds, “You probably have a ‘wish-list’ of pieces you want to learn next, so sit down and start on the next one. Be prepared to feel like a klutz as you begin a new piece from square one – after all, you spent months and months honing every small detail of your recital program, and now you are starting from scratch on a new piece. It will take time; learn to enjoy the process.”

Conclusion

Ledgerwood reflects, “In a sense, the completion of a recital is an end, but also a beginning of new challenges and new learning. Keep in mind that with each performance you will learn and grow.”

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