Exciting Recital Themes
Tired of the usual spring or fall recital? Well, you might not be the only one–your students might be a little bored as well! Our local music teachers association came together recently and talked about different recital themes we could use to liven up our yearly performances. Teachers who have done this before mentioned how much more interesting the performance is as well as how much more excited their students are when there is a theme. Below, I have compiled a list of over 40 recital themes from our local association as well as ComposeCreate Facebook followers. I’d love to hear what ideas you have tried! You might also want to know that there is a Repertoire Page on this site with lists of themed music from World music, duet music, humorous piano pieces, pupil savers, etc.
Download and print the entire list of recital themes (plus even more tips) by clicking the green button below!
Everybody Plays! – Audience Participation Recital
- Invite any siblings, grandparents, or parents to prepare duets or ensembles with their kids
- Use an audience participation piece like Mob Bop or Yee-haw to get everyone clapping to the beat and involved. They will love it and think it’s one of the best recitals ever because they participated
- Include your beginning students in with rhythm instruments
Earth Day – Nature Themed Recital
- Here’s a huge Earth Day Recital blog post full of repertoire, decoration ideas, and refreshment ideas.
- Refreshments can include Mrs. Field’s earth cupcakes recipe, natural foods, seeds, nuts, etc.
- Decorations can be super easy if you have a helium machine. Earth balloons and other such decor ideas are available on the Earth Day Recital blog post!
Music at the Movies
- Provide popcorn for guests (or ask a local popcorn store to supply the popcorn)
- Have a door prize of popcorn bucket and popcorn
- Used digital keyboards for fun sounds
- You could make this an “Academy Awards” recital and find oscar like trophies to award to students
- Find a red carpet for the students to walk down!
Music Around the World or Musical Travelogue
- Each student asked to present a paragraph about their piece (like Music around the World)
- Students mark where the piece was from on a map
- Make the program look like a passport
- Here’s a long list of world music pieces divided by level
Music Around Europe
- Spanish dances
- Polish mazurkas
- Irish Music (see Escape from Donegal Castle and Celtic Hymn Transformations)
- Hungarian dances
- Show a video of nature shots, first in black and white, then in color
- Sonatina in Colors, Splash of Color (Dennis Alexander), Sketches in Color (Robert Starer), Vandall has some pieces, Color My World, A Distant Blue
- Programs were on different colors of paper
- Parents make cookies in different colors
- Use student artwork
Happy Birthday ________! (insert your state name here)
- Birthday cake
- Recital program on birthday paper
- Trivia information about your state
- Here’s a fun 21st Century Happy, Happy Birthday piece. Plus, check out William Gillock’s Birthday Variations and Forrest Kinney’s Birthday Variations.
- Kansas themes: Wizard of Oz, Home on the Range, Over the Rainbow, Walnut River Rag
- Yes, that’s the name of this book about fun foods kids like, but it could also be the name of a super fun recital!
- Think of the food you could have for the reception. It’s pretty open ended.
- Ice Cream on a Sunday Afternoon, Crazy for Lemons, Macaroni Pizza, Pickle Sandwich…all these are in the Tasty Tunes book and I know there are lots of other books out there with pieces about food. Mona Rejino has a Pepperoni Pizza song in her Just for Kids book.
Wither the Weather
- Music about snow storms, sunsets, venetian boat songs, Twisters, etc.
- Method books even have great pieces about the weather.
- A Break in the Clouds is a great piece for adult students or older beginners!
Hooray for the USA or Patriotic/Hymn Recital
- These are great for nursing homes. You might find this post helpful: Bless Your Community.
- Use the America the Beautiful Cup-tapping piece and have your audience cup tap with you. They will have soooo much fun!
- Instead of having a program, have a “Name That Tune” contest with the residents.
- Use a call bell and after the student has played, ask the residents to name that tune. If they get it right, the student rings the bell (usually several times because its fun!)
- Repertoire can be about states, regions, patriotic
- Even your young students can play artfully composed arrangements of hymns. Check out Easy Hymn Solos (Levels 1, 2, 3)
Salute to Heroes and Heroines
- I’m sure you can come up with a better title than that, but it would be fun to pay tribute to the heroes in our personal life (e.g. by playing our grandfather’s favorite piece or a piece our mother sang to us as a baby).
- You could also pay tribute to amazing historical characters like are in the American Portraits book. You should look at the samples of this book and you might get some ideas about how to format your program! The American Heroes and Heroines that I paid tribute to in this book are: Letters to Abigail (Abigail Adams), Frontier Chorus (Davy Crochet), The Midnight Ride (Sybil Ludington–the 16 year old girl that rode through the night like Paul Revere), Morning at the Falls (Thomas Moran whose beautiful paintings were a main reason Yellowstone was preserved as a national park), Underground Railway (Harriet Tubman), and more.
My Favorite Things – Christmas
- Use this as a Christmas recital theme
- The artwork had to be a drawing of their favorite things at Christmas
- The students share a favorite Christmas memory (or they write it out and the teacher shares it)
- Older students can make their own arrangement of a favorite Christmas piece if it was polished
- You could also have a My Favorite Music theme for times other than Christmas
Back to the Future – 300th Anniversary of the Piano
Christmas Around the World
Funny Recital or April Fool’s Recital
- Have a recital around April Fool’s day and ask the parents and students to submit jokes and tell them between the pieces.
- Here’s a list of humorous piano pieces.
All that Jazz
- Ask a jazz ensemble to come and play with each student’s piece.
- Ask a drummer to accompany students.
- Use the blues scale on the piano or improvise.
The Great Outdoors
- Move your digital keyboard out to your patio.
- Pre-recorded sounds
- Blankets, lawn chairs and picnic food
A World of Adventure
- Repertoire includes: Parade, Train Ride, Circus, Dragon Hunt, Toccata Brilliante, Midnight Choo Choo, State Fair, Nothing like a Circus, Cuban Nights, Jamaica vacation.
- Music about animals can include almost all of the pieces in the Rote and Reading® series: African Safari, Savannah Stalk, Romp and Raid, and more are coming!
Water Music (apologies to G.F. Handel)
- Rainy Afternoon, Wandering Music, At the Bottom of the Sea
- Water represented indifferent forms like “Joplin When Your Hair is Like the Snow” Faber 2B Tecnique “Winter Wind” and 3A Technique Tropical Aquarium and MFPA book B Gliding Goldfish
- Handel’s music for prelude music
“A Musical Journey Through the Ages”
- Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Contemporary Recital Program
- Group music according to the time periods
- You could also do a “Baroque to Rock” theme and include pop music
- Pieces about Kings, queens, knights, etc.
- Possible repertoire: Ballroom dance, Greensleeves, Festival in Aragon, Dance of the Persian Princess, The Glass Slipper, Lady Alison’s Minuet
- Here’s an elementary duet about knights called The Knights’ Quest.
Fairy Tales, Fantasy Recital
- Could include some of the more recent film music like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc.
- Good for adult students especially
- The Making of a Star is a perfect piece for this theme. It’s mid elementary and sounds huge, while being easy to play!
Creatures Great and Small
Classics and Folksongs
Music We Wrote
- Obviously featuring student compositions
A Pair of Shus
- Featuring music of Schumann and Schubert
An Afternoon at the Opera
- One possible piece to this could be A Royal Invitation, inviting everyone to the castle!
Restaurant Recital Themes
Make the recital program look like a menu.
- Placed songs in several categories: appetizers, main course, sides, and dessert.
- You might have to stretch some of the titles to make them fit the theme
- You could make this into a dinner recital and have ethnic food.
- Ah…here’s where Tasty Tunes will fit right in!
- There are lots of pieces about space include The Making of a Star, one of the most popular pieces on the ComposeCreate site.
- Consider having this recital at night where you can black out the audience and even shine some stars on the ceiling.
- Refreshments could include these Planet Pops and or a fun Space Buffet!
Bugs and Butterflies
- You can find all kinds of recipes online for various snacks that look like bugs!
- Repertoire abounds in this category. See Valerie’s post Recital Themes: Bugs and Butterflies for a great list and more ideas on this theme.
- Valerie from Dollarhide Music Center has a post about repertoire, snacks, and other things to do with this theme here.
- Repertoire ideas: Pomp and circumstance, wedding marches, military/patriotic marches
- Don’t forget to look at the comprehensive list of halloween pieces.
- This Halloween Bundle of elementary solos sound BIG and are some of the best-selling pieces on ComposeCreate!
Handel with Care
- You can guess the repertoire. This (and several others here including the Pair of Shus) was suggested by Meri Dolevski-Lewis, a pianist who played such a concert with her husband.
Bach to Spring
Invitation to the Dance
Suites and Treats
- Light sounding pieces or pieces with light in the title
- Brooke Baker left this idea in the comments. She says, “One of my students’ favorite recitals was our Rock On! Recital.
- Students had the option to dress like Rock Stars.
- Repertoire included everything from The Beatles to Taylor Swift to Michael Jackson.
- Older students could play with a live band
- Brooke says that she ended with a huge medley that 6 keyboards and the kids rocking out on inflatable guitars. “So much fun!!”
Ellen Berry shared insight on this fun theme:
Another idea that I got from Philip Johnston’s former website (Practicespot.com) is my annual “March Mysteries” concert. Each year I come up with a secret theme either about the students or the repertoire they are playing, and indicate the different groups on the program with two or more colours of ink. Audience members fill out a ballot with their guesses and I award a Parent Prize and a Student Prize in a draw. So far the mysteries have been:
- the time period of the repertoire (Baroque, Classical, Romantic, 20th Century)
- the tempo of the repertoire (fast, medium, slow)
- students who had a sibling in the studio
- the title of the piece was in a language other than English
Everyone seems to enjoy solving the mystery and are quite attentive listeners!
Other thoughts on themed recitals:
- Mini theme within each level (especially if you have very young and high school students).
- To strengthen the kids memory: Colored starting places instead of lettered starting places. Use shapes.
- Video your students saying why piano is so cool. Show the video as part of your program. Have a contest to see what student can come up with the best background music.
- Use trivia at recitals (there are especially good ones about Christmas music)
- Older students’ classical pieces can usually be incorporated in some way
- Before the recital (or as a part of the recital), play a video of beautiful pictures with student improv as the background music. See Anne Crosby’s post about this.
What are your ideas for recital themes?