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Exciting Recital Themes

44 Creative 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!

Download Recital Themes

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

Music at the Movies

by ginnerobot

  • 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

Happy Birthday ________! (insert your state name here)

  • Birthday cake
  • Recital program on birthday paper
  • Trivia information about your state
  • Kansas themes: Wizard of Oz, Home on the Range, Over the Rainbow, Walnut River Rag

Sounds of Color 

  • 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
  • Programs were on different colors of paper
  • Parents make cookies in different colors
  • Use student artwork

Tasty Tunes

  • Yes, that’s the name of my new 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. (Incidentally, you can get the Tasty Tunes book from Hal Leonard too at this link: Tasty Tunes

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.
  • 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

  • Abigal Adams Letters to Abigail by Wendy StevensI’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.

Jazz Recital (e.g. “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.

Outdoor Recital

  • Move your digital keyboard out to your patio.
  • Pre-recorded sounds
  • Blankets, lawn chairs and picnic food

by Ellimac Enileuqcaj

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

Animals, Animals (or Carnival of the Animals)

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

Circus Music 

Mediaeval pageant/Fantasy

  • 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
  • For more ideas including ideas for snacks and decorations, visit the Dollarhide Music Center blog!
  • I have a fun new 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.

The Beatles 

  • Good for adult students especially

Music Theatre

Stars and Planets

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

Pirates and Fairies 

Disney

The Sea 

by Sifu Renka

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!

Outer Space

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.

Mystery Theme

Marches

  • Repertoire ideas: Pomp and circumstance, wedding marches, military/patriotic marches

Music to Scare You Away (Halloween theme)

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 Music 

  • Light sounding pieces or pieces with light in the title

March Mysteries

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?

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By | 2017-04-18T13:06:15+00:00 January 2nd, 2012|Music for Teaching, Piano Teaching|12 Comments

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Wendy Stevens
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12 Comments

  1. Erin January 2, 2012 at 7:57 am

    I was at Disney World in September and decided then to do a Disney themed recital this spring. Each student will play a Disney themed piece and one other piece.
    Last year I did folk songs from around the world and the year before was composers before the year 1900.

  2. Jennifer January 2, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Theme recitals are so fun. One year I was able to work it out with the local movie theater to have our recital there. Our theme was “You’re a Star!”. I found material that was perfect for the red carpet. I did a little movie music trivia at “intermission” with plastic movie trophies as the prizes. It was so much fun!

  3. Kathleen Gault January 25, 2012 at 10:34 am

    A good friend does a Composer of the Year recital each December. Students find out who the next year’s COTY is as they leave their MTA syllabus exams in April, begin working on pieces in spring and over summer, and are hard at it Sept-Dec. Some years she chooses 2 composers, one lesser-known one with lots of easier pieces, to go with one of the major dudes (ie Chopin, Mendelssohn, Liszt) who didn’t write lower levels pieces. Each student also has some kind of creative project, which is presented at the recital.

  4. Kathleen Gault January 25, 2012 at 10:36 am

    BTW this is a very helpful and inspiring list, Wendy — thanks so much for sharing. My recital ‘themes’ have tended to be ‘pieces arranged in an order that makes sense to myself’.

  5. Donna McLain January 25, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Great ideas! I always try to have some kind of theme especially in the spring recital. One that I did at Christmas was The Snowman by Howard Blake. I read the book between each selection. I printed the pictures in the book in color on transparencies sheets to use as we told the story. Most of the pieces are intermediate level. Everyone loved it! Another neat theme is trains – lots of train songs out there for boys.

  6. Brooke Baker January 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    One of my students’ favorite recitals was our Rock On! Recital. The students had the option to dress like Rock Stars. We played everything from The Beatles to Taylor Swift to Michael Jackson. I had my older students play with a live band and at the end we had a huge medley that 6 keyboards and the kids rocking out on inflatable guitars. SO MUCH FUN!!

  7. Em January 26, 2012 at 9:11 am

    Love the ideas Wendy, this is great! One themed recital that sticks out in my mind was our “Name that Tune” recital. Each student played 2 pieces – mostly movie themes, Beatles or Pop tunes, TV shows, and famous classical themes. During the recital all the parents/grandparents/kids were given a guessing page to write down thier guess as students played – bonus points if they could name the composer. At the end each student said the name of thier piece and the composer, and we tallied up scores. The top scores got a prize. It was very fun and kept even the most aloof parents quite focused on each piece. It went pretty well until the end when we were scoring and two of the dad’s got into a heated debate about how “Twist and Shout” was recorded but not technically composed by the Beatles. So a word of caution if you try this…..you may find some tough calls in scoring!!!

  8. Wendy
    Wendy February 2, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    That sounds so fun Brooke! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Emily March 30, 2016 at 8:04 pm

    I love the “Musical Journey through the ages” theme.
    My older kids are researching specific composers for the spring recital. They will “introduce” our audience to the composers throughout the recital. It is a great way to get music history into the piano lesson and I don’t have to do much work!!!

  10. […] 44 Recital Themes Everyone Will Love – Wendy Stevens […]

  11. Beverly November 2, 2016 at 10:41 pm

    Wendy, thanks for all that you do for the teaching community! I love the recital themes and will definitely dip into this list over the next few years. I did one called, Dancing Through Time a few seasons ago, and the students played everything from hoe-downs to minuets, waltzes and polonaises, even boogie-woogie. Of course, each student had to know about his type of dance piece and the audience loved learning about different dances through the ages.

  12. Wendy Stevens
    Wendy Stevens November 3, 2016 at 6:41 am

    What a great idea, Beverly! I love this theme! Thanks for sharing!

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