Hello, my pretties!!! It’s January 17, 2022, aka MLK day, aka day 2 of Mary Sue Coleman’s presidency, aka day 362 of waiting for my student loans to be forgiven, aka day 58,052 of waiting for my 40 acres and a mule. But who’s counting?

Speaking of counting, or pretending not to… Let’s have some real talk about student turnout during recital season. There’s nothing worse than stressing about your performance for months, pulling all-nighters, driving yourself to the brink of insanity in the name of art, getting to the opening night and there are 10 people there, 8 of which are from your studio and are required to be there.

Let’s leave poorly attended performances in 2021. Here is the student guide on how to have more than 10 people at your performance/recital/play/musical/installation/weird performance art thing that even you can’t explain.  

1. Give The People What They Want

I know, I know darling, you’re an artist. Your genius is constantly misunderstood, and you’re trying to give the masses culture, BUT sometimes your audience is asking for hot dogs, and you’re trying to sell caviar. It is important to make sure that the content of your performance is something that your audience is interested in. 

2. Screw Convention and Focus on Innovation

Break out of the mold! Don’t be afraid to push the expectations of your art form as far as you can get away with. Who says classical recitals have to be traditional and high brow? Sarah Best, a Michigan DMA student, just gave an INCREDIBLE recital that was less a recital and more a one-woman cooking show from the fifties. She had commercials, she had costume changes, she had fights with the pianist on stage, she baked a hilariously terrible chocolate cake right in front of our eyes, and her singing was impeccable. An icon. Let’s all be like Sarah! 

3. Talk to Your Audience

Do you really need program notes? What would it look like if you didn’t, and instead you talked to your audience in between pieces? It’s a great way to increase audience engagement and add your own personal touch.

If you HAVE to have a program, get creative with it. I mean, If we’re going to kill a tree, let’s make it worth it, am I right? Make it interactive, add QR codes. Instead of performer bios, try two truths and a lie. Pressed for space? Cut performer bios and link to their social media handles.

Whatever you decide, think about the program from your audience’s perspective rather than your own. Use that space to tell us why the piece matters to you, not just when the composer lived and died (short of your teacher, no one cares). We aren’t coming for a music history lesson; we’re coming to be entertained.

4. Market to Your Desired Audience

Posters are nice… but I’ll be honest, I don’t know that I’ve ever decided to go to something because I saw a poster for it. If you’re a crusty millennial like myself, talk to one of the youths, TikTok is where it’s at. If you need inspiration, check out UM Social, particularly @cdiamzon, for some quality TikTok ads.

5. Plan Ahead (I Know It Sounds Crazy)

Do not schedule your recital in the last possible weeks. I repeat, DO NOT schedule your recital in the last possible weeks. Perform at the beginning of the semester. You will be exhausted; your friends will be exhausted; your collaborators will be exhausted. Don’t do it to yourself. Schedule your performance at the beginning of the semester when everyone’s well-rested from break and before they’ve had time to realize that they overcommitted yet again.

6. Have Multiple Performances

Your degree may only require one performance, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop there. Find a second location and offer two days for your performance. Scheduling is a nightmare, and more options makes it more likely that people will be available to come (plus, all your opening night nerves will be gone). Performances should be like pringles — you can’t have just one.

7. And if All Else Fails….

Bribe them. Just kidding, just kidding…….

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