A Piano Teacher’s Advice on Pre-Recital Nerves

With only one week until our piano recitals, it is easy for students to get nervous! Will I remember the whole song? Will I play all of the right notes? What do piano teachers do when they get nervous? We’ve interviewed a few of our piano teachers at Utah Piano Conservatory to see what they do!

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All of the teachers talked about some kind of pre-performance practice session. Kadee Henderson, the adult Piano Academy teacher and Piano Academy Pass-Off teacher, said, “It seems so obvious, but do the practice performances! Try to do it with people outside of your family, people who don’t regularly hear you. It gives you more of the effect.” An example is Joshie Larson. He raced around to all of the piano teachers on the day of his lessons and played for them, even the computer lab teacher, who doesn’t usually hear Joshie play. Kadee also said, “Of course prayer is important. Maintaining the oneness with the Spirit. These are the big ones.”

Do Oh, who teaches in the Hymn/Technique and Pass-Off rooms, sat back and thought of what to say. She recalls her own routine from college. “Before one hour of the recital, just keep remembering the notes, and look at the scores [or sheet music], but NOT playing the piano. Keep reminding yourself how the melody goes.”

She takes a very imaginative and visual approach. “Remember the first hand position. Imagine where the first hand position goes. Tap the melody on the score. Remember the melody, sing it to yourself! Ten minutes before, though, you should do nothing! Just imagine that you are playing, inside yourself. Get away from piano and do this by yourself.”

Chris Morrison, one of our solo teachers, said, “Over prepare, and do the practice performances. Those are the best things you can do. The more performances you do the week before, the less nervous you will be and the better you will do.”

piano recital, piano performance

In addition, Mr. Morrison made sure to mention techniques from a licensed psychologist and performance coach named Jon Skidmore. “I took a class on performance psychology from him at BYU,” he said. This is one of the techniques: “On the night before the performance, you should say to yourself, ‘I declare my preparation complete’, then don’t practice anymore.” It is acknowledging that you have prepared as much as you can, and to be happy with where you are. This relates really well to our virtue of the month, confidence.

Each month the Utah Piano Conservatory and Piano Academy focus on a specific “virtue for virtuoso’s”. This focus on virtues helps to uphold the mission of the conservatory, which is “to simultaneously develop talent and testimony, our two pillars of instruction” (https://utahpianoconservatory.com/about-piano-lessons/mission/). Students are not only taking piano lessons to play a piece in a recital, they are learning to be confident in themselves and who they are.


Recital preparation should also be fun. Mr. Morrison shared a routine he always does that helps him relax on recital day. “On the day of the performance, focus on your hands, and say, ‘My hands feel heavy and warm,’ while sitting and waiting to play. It’s a little zen thing,” he said with a smile.

No matter your routine, it is important to come up with something that works for you. We look forward to our Piano Academy Recitals this Saturday, May 20th, and wish all of the performers a satisfying and enjoyable performance!

piano recital, piano performance