Break it Down: Long Term Planning for Students

by | May 19, 2017 | Printables, Recitals | 4 comments

In my interview all about teen students with the Upbeat Piano Teachers, I talked with Tracy Selle and Sara Campbell about the different pressures that weigh in on our teen students.

Here are just some of the things that our teenage are balancing:

  • Driving, passing drivers test
  • Academics
  • College essays and applications
  • Choosing a college/university/trade school
  • Deciding what to study
  • Sports
  • Clubs/other extra-curricular activities
  • Tutoring/volunteering
  • Making money/job
  • Social media
  • ACT/SAT examinations

This is just some of what our teens have on their plates.  They have a lot of balls to juggle all while navigating their new freedoms and responsibilities that come at this age of leaving childhood and entering into adulthood.

Knowing that my teen students are dealing with all of these pressures, I don’t want piano lessons to be a source of stress.  I want for my teen students to be able to walk into the doors of the studio and set down all of their pressures and focus on music.

For some teens, this means playing their favorite songs, digging into pop chords, and playing merely for their own enjoyment without a performance in mind.  For other students, we are planning ahead for their Senior Recital.

Why plan a Senior Recital?

There are two main reasons– the first is to show off! Most likely, once your students reach their senior year, they have been studying with you for a long time. They have lots of skills to show off and a Senior Recital is the perfect opportunity to focus on your seniors and let them shine.

This event is more personal and meaningful than a typical studio recital because it focuses one student or a small group of students. This is the perfect culmination of their piano studies–a special event to celebrate and showcase them! Speaking of “showcase”–take a look at what Leila Viss from 88 Piano Keys did at her Senior Showcase and get some ideas of what this type of event can look like.

The second reason you should consider planning a Senior Recital is student retention.  About the time students start driving can be a real make or break time for piano lessons. When the Senior Recital in mind, students are more likely to commit to staying in your studio through the end of their high school career and this event will give students and families something to look forward to.


Long Term Planning Tool

I am currently planning a Senior Recital with a student who is wrapping up his junior year.  He will be performing his recital next June. Using this goal planning sheet, we laid out exactly what he will be playing, when he is playing, and how he will get there.


Goal Setting Chart




In this section, list every song that be will be performed.  Next to each recital selection, write down how many sections are in each piece.  Then, total the sections to show exactly how many sections of music need to be learned.



Make a list of every month between now and the recital.  Decide how many of those months you want to be “working months”.  For example, I didn’t want my student to be learning anything new the month of the recital or the three months leading up to it.  I want to save those months for memorizing and polishing all of the details.



List each month again, leaving out the months set aside for polishing.  I asked my student to take this page home and sit down with his parents and look at what they have coming up over the next year–consider any travel plans, whether he wants to get more done in the summer time without school and homework being a factor.   Then decide how many sections need to be tackled each month. On average, he will need to learn 12-13 sections a month. Keep in mind, these are short sections-and we’ve been working on these already–he just needs to get them SOLID. I also wanted to make the sections short in order to keep the momentum going also there are lots of small goals being accomplished and celebrated along the way.


Now we have a tool that tells us EXACTLY where we need to be at any point leading up to his big performance.  I plan to revisit this often and make sure that we are staying on track.

This goal setting sheet can be used for ANY time frame and ANY event (studio recital/open mic night/talent show/etc.).  Adjust the months into weeks or days and lay out exactly what needs to happen for successful performance preparation.

Download your free Goal Setting Chart here.


For more tools, resources, ideas and some fun and modern recital program covers, check out the Senior Recital Planning Kit in the Piano Teacher Planning Center.


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