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  • Angela Marshall

How to Create an Art Showcase Recital

Student artwork, crocodile swimming with sea life

Since 2012, Davis and I have experimented with ways to make our student recitals more dynamic. We recently gave a webinar for MTNA called Rethink Your Recital: Practical Tips for Dynamic Performances.

You can watch a brief preview of the webinar here

or watch the entire presentation here if you are a member of MTNA​.

Let’s take a closer look at one of the recital projects we highlighted in that presentation: the Art Showcase Recital.

Art showcase lakeside piano studios colorful recital poster

Art and music make a great pair for live performance. Adding a visual component to live performance can help performers and audience members make deeper connections with the music. Showcasing student art is a great way to rethink your recital, and it can be done easily and affordably.

Student artwork, rainbow with flowers, sun, and green grass

For our Art Showcase Recital, we had each student draw a picture inspired by their recital piece or select artwork that they felt represented the music.

We then scanned the pictures, put them in a PowerPoint presentation and displayed them on a projection screen above the piano while the students performed.

Students loved having an opportunity to show off their art, and the process of choosing art opened conversations about musical interpretation in lessons. Many of my students had completely different imagery for pieces than I did!

This student performed a piece called “Dragon Run,” but she was picturing an ice dragon!

Student drawing with scary, horned dragon and long tail.

The images gave the audience a connection with unfamiliar repertoire and another way to see the performer’s personality. Many parents commented that they understood the music much better when they had a visual.

This recital worked well for students of all levels. Most early level students chose to create their own artwork. Although the drawings were based on the title or lyrics, they were still very creative and often surprising!

Pianists playing classical masterworks chose images that they felt represented the music or gave a glimpse into the historical context.

Students playing popular music used cover art from albums or still shots from music videos to connect the solo piano performance with the original recordings.

Equipment Needed

  • Scanner, camera, or phone

  • Slideshow software

  • Projection screen or large TV

This project is fairly easy to execute. We used the scanners built into our printers to digitize the artwork, but you could also take pictures of the drawings with your tablet or phone. Many older students decided they would rather find an image online, so we searched historical pictures, stock photography, music videos, and album art to find just the right thing. We then put the artwork into PowerPoint and arranged the slides to match the performance order.

You will need a projector and screen. These are already available at many churches and concert halls, but you could also buy your own or use a large TV.

If you can’t access a projector, you could also display the artwork around your performance venue. Create a gallery of student artwork or set an easel by the piano and place each performer’s picture on it when they play.

Timeline for planning an Art Showcase Recital

This is an approximate timeline for creating an art showcase recital. Feel free to adapt it to suit your planning process.

4-5 months before:

  • Secure a recital venue and check it for projection technology.

  • Decide how you will display the artwork.

  • Finalize repertoire and give students the recital date so they know their performance deadline.

3-4 months before:

  • Start promoting the recital concept to students and parents.

  • Also think about recruiting a volunteer to run the slideshow so you can focus on the students. This is an easy job, and people are often happy to help.

2-3 months before:

  • Tell the students in detail about the recital concept.

  • As you are working on recital repertoire, talk about imagery and what their picture might look like.

1-2 months before:

  • Start collecting student pictures. I had students draw pictures at home and bring them to lessons. I then put them in folders, scanned them when I had collected all the pictures, and returned them to the students. If students were genuinely having trouble choosing an image, we spent some lesson time looking online.

  • Also, finalize plans with your slideshow volunteer if you have one.

3 weeks before:

  • Finalize your program order.

  • Put student artwork in the slideshow software of your choice and put the artwork in the order the pieces will be performed. (We used PowerPoint, but there are many other options.)

1 week before:

  • Confirm dates and times with venue, volunteers, and students.

  • If possible, go to your recital venue and make sure the projection technology works with your slideshow.

  • Run through slide show from beginning to end.

Day of recital:

  • Get to the venue early to set up your slideshow and make sure everything is working properly.

  • Be prepared for technology to fail. You might keep the student artwork so you could display the originals if something goes wrong.

Post recital:

Use the excitement built by the recital to collect reviews for your studio, motivate students for their next projects, and enjoy the success of having completed a creative recital!