What’s a Senior Showcase and How Do You Plan One?

What do you do when you have have four marvelous, faithful, dynamic and long-time pianists who are graduating from high school and leaving your studio?

You throw a Senior Showcase.

What’s a Senior Showcase? I held one other such event about 7 years ago when I had three dedicated seniors graduate in one year. I did the same for four seniors last year. This show included considerable “upgrades” thanks to the latest tech tools and my ongoing desire to provide creative-based teaching.

Perhaps you have dedicated seniors that deserve recognition for their time spent with you on the bench? If so and if you care to follow through with holding your own showcase, here are the steps I took to make it a reality.

Meet for coffee

During the spring, all the seniors met me at Starbucks and we brainstormed ideas of what the showcase could be. They didn’t hold back and imaginations ran wild. In the end, we made a list of what they wanted. Of course, I guided them in their thoughts and we trimmed it down to these tasks and decisions:

  • Nail down a date that all could attend–this was tricky working around 4 img_4393-2families, different schools and their spring plays and proms and programs…
  • Secure a date at my church where all the past recitals have been.
  • Feature favorite repertoire and original compositions and songs of the seniors.
  • Invite friends and/or family members to sing or play along with them.
  • Hold a reception that could double as a grad party if they prefer.
  • Choose one piece that they would play together as a quartet.

Prep before the show

  • Collect digital life time pics of each senior
  • Collect digital senior pics–they usually have tons of poses!
  • Ask them to write a 50-word bio including plans for the years to come.
  • Take pictures of them together wearing their college t-shirts.
  • Design a program cover.

Plan program detailssenior-showcase

Ask each senior to place their pieces in order of how they’d like to perform them

Order gifts and or flowers for each senior. As a studio tradition, I gave each one a piano music box purchased here.

Set agenda for the evening

  1. Offer a knockout printed program featuring dazzling photos and important info about the seniors. TIP: Canva.com is amazing! Make sure to check out this free graphic design program.
  2. Prepare pianists to perform around 5 of their favorite current or past pieces that best represent their playing AND their creativity.
  3. Present a projected slide show featuring snap shots of “lifetime” pics of each senior to loop prior to the showcase.
  4. Include a projected slide reflecting the mood or style of the piece as each pianist performed.
  5. Meet a special-request for one of the seniors by displaying slides with variousimg_4534 movie posters as he played a tribute medley honoring all his favorite film composers.
  6. Set up cool lighting to provide sophisticated staging.
  7. Ensure outstanding and confident performances from each pianist showing their unique personalities and skills sets.
  8. Create an opportunity for each pianist to read a score on an iPad and turn pages with a blue-tooth pedal.
  9. Design a pop medley collaboration featuring all the pianists using the piano and the impressive voice selection of the Clavinova.

Shift from teacher to tech support

I’m pleased (and relieved!) to say that the above agenda pretty much happened as img_4512planned even though I unexpectedly took charge of all tech support. I was given a crash course and learned how to run the projector, lights, and mics.

The state of the art tech center at my church runs EVERYTHING through apps. I could even mute and change the volume of the mics on the iPad! I called my designated workspace in the back of the sanctuary Mission Control. Below is a pic of where I sat for a good part of the evening changing slides and running sound.

Revisit mission statement

What does all this agenda and tech stuff have to do with a mission statement and a senior showcase? With such a profound occasion at hand, I felt it necessary to write something “important” to my students and families so I included my statement in the printed program at the beginning of my short essay.

As a prompt for where to begin with this task, I revisited my mission statement posted on my website. I haven’t read it in quite some time (it really should be memorized!) and I was curious if these four seniors being sent off into the “real world” matched up with my intentions as a piano teacher.

Here’s what I placed in the program:

Students of any age will develop the necessary skills to become independent pianists allowing them to enjoy making music on the bench for a lifetime.

– Mission statement of Ms Leila

Abi, Kenna, Sarah and Addison were drawn to the piano for different reasons and followed a path as unique as each of their individual personalities.

The dedication each pianist demonstrated from week to week, year to year—img_6551showing up for lessons on time (even early in the morning) practicing with diligence, reading and following my long lesson notes—shows their remarkably loyal dedication to 88 piano keys. They spoiled me!

Music is something to be made. These four seniors are what I’d call high-functioning music makers. Each pianist has worked to learn favorite repertoire of the masters as well as compose and improvise away from the page. They are comfortable playing from chord charts and collaborating with other musicians.

Tonight is a celebration of Sarah, Kenna, Abi, and Addison putting into action all their music-making skills. In addition, it is a testament to their drive to develop dynamic and creative voices at the keys.

I’m thankful for the parents of these four seniors and their support of lessons with “Ms Leila” and this somewhat eclectic approach to learning the piano.

Although I’ll miss seeing these students, I’m extremely grateful for the time I had with them and know they will cherish making music for a lifetime.

Mission accomplished.

-Ms Leila

Realign mission statement

There was no mention of technology or creativity in the statement–the two things I integrate into just about every lesson! But then it dawned on me that these two essentials could be thought as “necessary tools” so it still covers my intentions as a piano teacher. However, I will be making of a point of revising the statement to something like this:

Students of any age will develop the necessary skills to become creative, tech-savvy, comprehensive and independent pianists allowing them to enjoy making music on the bench for a lifetime.

Put mission statement into actionimg_4509

One way this updated mission statement is portrayed in the senior showcase was the “Pop Medley” that concluded the show.

The seniors took turns playing solos from all styles like Debussy, Chopin, Gershwin, Line, Mier and also played original compositions and songs. They wanted to play something with all four of them at the keys.

Since they enjoy playing pop music and because I wanted to provide a chance for them to collaborate like a band, we created a medley of four pop pieces.

img_4545-e1463404805154

Each pianist took the lead for their choice piece and made decisions regarding who would play what. They worked from iTunes, the Yamaha Chord Tracker app, YouTube videos and hand-written lead sheets.

In the video of their showcase performance, you’ll hear and see how they

  • Listened to each other.
  • Transitioned between new tunes.
  • Had incredible fun playing “drummer” and “back-up synth” on the Clavinova.
  • Wore some crazy glasses and their t-shirts sporting their college choice for the next year.

How about you?

Do you have a mission statement?

Does your mission statement need some updating?

If so, will students leave with music skills that are in line with it?


Do you want more super ideas and an organized planner for your Senior recital? Stay tuned for a detailed resource packed full and carefully packaged by Heather Nanney and coming SOON to the Piano Teacher Planning Center!

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Leila Viss

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