Posted Jul 26, 2016 by Brian Jenkins - 2 Comments

Why Performances Must Be a Part of Music Education

Why Performances Must Be a Part of Music Education

You’re taking music lessons, and you think that’s all there is to it huh? Hopefully you’ve figured out by now that lessons don’t do much on their own. You need practice too! But there is one more step to music lessons that can’t be ignored. Yes, it’s the performance. Whether you are playing for your friends or family, or a large group of strangers, music is meant to be heard.

Learning to make incredible music is just not as rewarding if you don’t share it. Imagine learning to paint, but you decide no one can ever see your painting. That’s what it’s like to never want to participate in a recital or performance.

Beyond the obvious need to share your talent, there are many other reasons why it’s important to perform regularly.

Learning to Overcome a Fear

Performing is hard. It’s scary. Almost everyone has some degree of performance anxiety. For the most part kids today don’t have to worry about nerves and public performances or speaking. Adults have job interviews, presentations, public speaking, and many more opportunities to deal with our stage fright or fear of failure. Kids just don’t have those same experiences. Apparently people fear public speaking more than death. That’s not a fun fear to have, and performing music can really reduce that fear.

Public recitals force the student to do something a little scary. By facing a fear the student gains confidence to know that just because something is difficult or scary, doesn’t mean they can’t do it.

This knowledge arms the student with something much more important than any single recital. It gives the student self-confidence. It builds self-esteem.

Work Towards a Performance

Practicing consistently is hard for just about everyone. We know that no real progress happens without that consistent practice though.

My piano teacher was a strong believer in performance. She would get me into as many performances as I could possibly fit in. Because of that, I always had something to prepare for. I was never practicing just for the sake of practice.

Any teacher will tell you that when a recital is coming up, their students magically start practicing a lot more and a lot more consistently. Can you imagine soccer practice if you were never going to have a game? If you’re not preparing for anything, the motivation to practice hard goes away. Performances should be held often enough that the student always feels like they are working towards something.

Unfortunately we don’t tend to have recitals as often as you would a soccer game. Teachers should strive to help their students get into as many recitals and public performance experiences as possible.

Playing in Public is a Skill

There are definitely some people that thrive on performing in public. They do it well, and don’t have stage fright. These people are rare. For most of us, our bodies go into fight or flight mode and a lot of different things happen to our body at that moment.

You can’t think straight, your hands sweat, your hands are cold, your muscles tense, you forget things, the list goes on and on. Learning how to overcome these obstacles will teach you how to perform effectively. When it gets time to go to a job interview, or speak and graduation, all of the sudden you have a skill to overcome your natural fight or flight response, so these events become much easier.

Learning to perform is empowering because it helps you to know that you can do anything.

What Happens if You Embarrass Yourself

You would think the most nervous person in the room is the student performing, but ever since I’ve been a teacher and a father I realized the parents and the student’s teacher may be even more nervous. You want to see your child perform, and perform well. You’ve probably heard horror stories about playing really badly at a recital. It happens.

Some people definitely lose their motivation to practice or perform when they find out that they didn’t perform well. Sometimes it lasts forever. More often that not however, you get over it. You go on with your life continue practicing and becoming a better musician and person.

Failure is a part of life. The best successes come out of failure. Students that play poorly at a recital and then bounce back, learn that failure isn’t the end. They learn that you can move on in your life and still experience happiness in that indevour.

Opportunities to Perform

Recitals are not the only opportunity out there to perform.


Auditions are a very real event in all serious musician’s lives. It’s something you can’t avoid if you want to progress. They also tend to be the most stressful of all performance situations.

Recitals are a lot less stressful than auditions because if you do poorly nothing bad happens. If you do poorly at an audition, you won’t get into the school, or the orchestra, or the band. For this reason it’s important to take advantage of as many performance opportunities as possible. You’ll learn how to perform better through the less stressful recitals, and then you’ll play fantastically at your audition.


Some people are vehemently opposed to competitions in general. There are a number of reasons teachers may not want their students to be in competitions. One reason is many of them could actually be rigged. This is much more likely in international competitions than it may be with small local competitions. The judges often have their own students participating in the competitions, which makes a significant conflict of interest.

Another reason that people may be opposed to competitions is because music is very subjective. Often judges must choose one interpretation over another, and who is to say one is inherently better than another?

Even though music competitions are inherently flawed, it doesn’t mean there is no value to them. I did a lot of competitions growing up, and at the very least they were a great opportunity to perform and get comments from teachers other than my own. Competitions tend to be more stressful than a normal recital even though there may only be a couple of judges listening to you. They can be great practice for auditions because they are often very similar.

Mini Recitals

Putting together a recital is difficult and time consuming. Because of this, most teachers don’t hold more than a couple of studio recitals a year. It would actually be ideal if teachers held them more often, but it’s a tall order to ask from an independent teacher. Often what’s helpful is to hold little mini recitals on your own. When the grandparents come over for dinner take it as an opportunity to perform. If you are at a friends house, have everyone listen to what you’ve been working on. If you’re a teacher invite your students to play for each other before their lesson. This can be a great opportunity to experience performing more often than just formal recitals


There are so many benefits to performing in public. Not least of which is really feeling the joy of sharing your talent and music with others. It’s a way to express yourself and I personally believe that it’s not healthy to keep that in.

Are there any benefits to performing that I missed? Let us know in the comments!