What happens when the regular recital venue isn’t available?

When God closes a door He opens a window.

It’s a cliche, I know, but it seems so fitting for my recital experience this spring!

Two composers holding their original cover art and recital trophies

Two composers holding their original cover art and recital trophies

Earlier this year, I learned that after a decade of presenting recitals at the church where I hold a full-time organist position, I would not be able to this year.

After I calmed down and stopped fuming about it–my friend and I made a pact that you can hold on to feelings like this for no longer than a week–I told myself I had to begin thinking outside the box and beyond the closed door.

My thoughts

Another church sanctuary just wouldn’t be the same.

I’ve held informal recitals at the local Whole Foods but it’s noisy and not the intimate setting I wanted for my event.

Then it came to me

Why not have a recital at our neighborhood clubhouse? It’s free, or more accurately, we pay for it in our monthly homeowners fee.

Tables were perfect for coloring and doodling!

Tables were perfect for coloring and doodling!

I called to reserve it thinking I had little chance of getting my requested May 19th date. Wouldn’t you know–the date was open! (The window had opened a crack.)

The set up

Two weeks before the recital I was peeking into the windows of the clubhouse to help me think through how I would set up the room. That’s when I learned that the neighborhood association had recently placed a large screen TV on a prominent wall!

The HDTV was particularly exciting news to me as I had just finished creating a slide show in Keynote to reflect my students’ original cover art while they performed their original compositions. I had planned on projecting them on a large wall with my projector. The big TV screen was a much better option. (The window was open.)

Some problems to solve

The one big item the clubhouse does not have is a piano. Fortunately, my husband and son helped me move my Clavinova which was placed right next to the large TV.

The large screen HGTV allowed me to project my iPad Keynote slide show of student cover art

The large screen HDTV allowed me to project my iPad Keynote slide show of student cover art

The club house main floor is spacious with a living room on one side and a dining room with a number of small round tables.

As I did not want to serve food, the tables presented a slight problem. To make them inviting to sit at, I added jars of markers and pencil colors on each table and Andrea West came to my rescue. She created a black and white version of the design on my program cover. (The window wide was open!)

Audience members were encouraged to color as they listened. BTW, studies show your listening improves when doodling! Follow this link to learn more.

Just like the salon days

As I welcomed guests to the first of my three small recitals, I explained to them how Chopin performed in small salons or living rooms and of course, played his original work. Now we were in the neighborhood clubhouse echoing Chopin’s intimate setting.

The late Friday afternoon series of recitals were short yet meaningful recitals. Parents were pleasantly surprised with the setting and the 45-minute time frame.

Pianists played their original work with artistry and pride. Here’s the YouTube playlist of all the compositions I managed to record before lessons ended.

The video above features Naomi playing her “Tangerine Jazz.”

The slide slow below features some of the student cover art.

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Some unique moments besides the world premieres of student compositions

Programs with colorful cover and back side for coloring.

Programs included a colorful cover and back side for coloring.

One duet partner could not make the recitals, so I recorded both girls playing the duet and played the video on the large screen during the recital.

Three siblings played an arrangement of “Happy Birthday” that we created from a lead sheet.

Some students enjoyed finding unique voices on the Clavinova for their performances. A student and I played a pleasant duet of Vivaldi’s “Spring” by Carol Matz using strings and piano.

A late elementary student brought in pretty difficult sheet music for his favorite video game and so he and I created a duet out of it and used a cool voice on the Clavinova to make it sound like the real thing.

A senior piano student showcased her art work at the recital as she is a fine visual artist as well as pianist. She painted the watercolor shown in the feature image and gave it to me as a gift.

I set up my first-ever photo booth where students could stop and take a picture before they left for the next event of the evening.

The photo booth was a hit.

The photo booth was a hit.

My thoughts

There’s a time for a formal recital in a church or hall and a time for something new–a salon recital like in the days of Chopin. It was a nice change of pace–I’ll be doing this again.

Have you had a door close that created a wonderful window of opportunity and creativity? I’d love to hear about it!


PS Andrea has some new summer-themed graphics. Check’em out here!

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Leila Viss

Creative Pianist, Piano Teacher, Organist, Blogger and Author of The iPad Piano Studio

12 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I love how God made a way! I also love your cover art idea!
    We changed churches 3 years ago and with that change I had nowhere for recitals. Before, I was the church pianist and had access to a grand piano, sound system…everything. At my church now, there is no ” church pianist” and no acoustic piano at all. 😳😫 So…..my house is too small ….I have large families with lots of siblings. For Christmas….I had a more informal recital at my church building using my keyboard. I’ve tried a couple of different setups…one in the ‘sanctuary’ one in the lobby. Both went well. For my spring , more formal recitals, I called around to other churches. Most had a pretty high fee, but for three years now, I’ve had my formal recital at a large Baptist church in a nearby town….30 minutes away, but it worked and they have been so kind and gracious to let me use their facilities. They have a 9 foot grand so my students love it! I give the church a cash donation, but they don’t require it. It’s been fun to get to know them and they have been so supportive. So yes, God made a way for me too!

    • You thought on your toes and new relationships are established. Change is hard but is usually good. Thanks so much for sharing your story and good to hear God opened a window of opportunity for you, Kimberly!

    • Hi, Kimberly. Something similar happened to me. Did you become Eastern Orthodox? We did, and I love it and the a cappella tradition, even though there is no place for piano in it! It does mean, of course, that I’m always searching for recital venues. That’s been difficult. So, you have my sympathy!

        • Yes, the a cappella music is wonderful! Some church choirs sound better than others, and it helps if people have some music education (That’s something we music teachers can help with!), because there are no instruments to hide behind or support you. The compositions themselves are lovely, sometimes meditative, sometimes breathtakingly beautiful. There are many different cultural styles too, including Greek, Ukrainian, Imperial-era Russian, Georgian, and many more. An American style is beginning to form too, bringing in the interval patterns and harmonic blends of American folk music. It’s fascinating to observe the evolution of a new, distinctly American genre. The lyrics, of course, are even more important than the music, and I am grateful they are pithy, reverent, and full of wisdom. But the musician part of me revels in the music! I hope you will get a chance to hear it someday!

  • You looked at it is not a stumbling block as an opportunity to be ingenuitive! I love the idea of having the coloring for the audience. Another positive view of the situation…is was certainly close to home!

    • Thanks Amy and duh! Do you know how nice that was to be a block away from the venue? Not sure why I didn’t mention that as the biggest positive of all!

  • How did you help your students compose their pieces? I’d love to hear about that! What a fantastic idea, to have the students create artwork for their pieces, and display photos of the artwork behind them as they played!

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