Student Piano Nursing Home Recitals

By Lou Walinsky
Philadelphia, PA

Many private instrumental music teachers have annual or semi-annual recitals for their students.  Such student recitals have been part and parcel of private music teachers’ standard practice for many decades.  The teacher generally invites the students and their family and friends to the teacher’s home or to a larger space. The recital serves as a marker of student achievement in a public setting and as a way for family and friends to share in the student’s achievements.

The recital provides a unique sharing opportunity particularly for piano students, who usually practice alone, as compared to students learning a band or orchestra instrument.  For the latter students, ensemble instruction and interaction is much more common, even at the early levels.

As a piano teacher, I have held many such recitals throughout my teaching career – sometimes in my home, sometimes in a nearly hall.  They have worked perfectly well, and family, friends, and the students themselves generally were quite content with them.

About five years ago, I decided to have my annual student recital for that year at the nursing home where the parent of one of my adult students was residing.  The result was an astounding success.  Parents, grandparents, friends, the residents, and the students themselves were equally enthusiastic about the program.  It had become larger than just a student recital: it was a community event!

Since then, I have held all of my student recitals at nursing homes, and each recital has been an unqualified success.  The students, family, and friends are delighted to partake in the joy of community service as well as the joy of music. The students get to perform for an audience that provides total acceptance – quite a comfort for those students with performance anxiety.   The residents interact with children and are part of a very normal life cycle event that takes place in their community.  They residents have become an integral part of the excitement associated with these recitals.

I had and have no problem with the standard student recital.  It serves a useful function and is quite acceptable.  But for me, I find that the enthusiasm and the additional opportunities of the nursing home recital make that an even better option.  I strongly urge other instrumental music teachers to consider this option.

One caveat must be added.  Some nursing homes do not maintain their pianos well.  Some of the pianos in nursing homes are out of tune and have unplayable notes.  It would be a disservice to have piano students performing on such an instrument.  It is the responsibility of the piano teacher to make sure that the piano that will be played is in an acceptable condition.