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Tips to create a well-rounded recital program

Call me nerdy (I think that ship has long sailed, seeing as I run a clarinet blog!), but I genuinely enjoy planning recital programs. I love coming up with themes, brainstorming repertoire, and thinking of ways to increase audience and community engagement for my performances.

Here are a few tips to help you create a well-rounded recital program for your next concert:

  • Begin with a good warm-up piece. Save all the pyrotechnics for later in the program – your first piece is a great opportunity to ease into your program, so select a piece that’s not too technically demanding so you can begin with confidence.
  • Choose diverse repertoire. Make sure to select a diverse and varied program. There are infinite opportunities for diverse programs, from choosing diverse composers, styles, genres, subject matter, traditional vs. new repertoire, and any other parameters you choose to explore.
  • Determine how long you want your recital to be. Recital length varies greatly depending on audience, venue, and context, but I try to plan my recitals to be around 60-90 minutes (including intermission).
  • Minimize clarinet switching. After choosing your repertoire, make note of which clarinets you’ll use (Bb, A, bass, etc). Try to create a program order that avoids too many switches. If possible, I try to order my program so that all my Bb and A pieces are grouped together (ideally with a switch after intermission, which gives me time to warm up the other clarinet).
  • Prepare an encore. It’s a good idea to have an encore prepared for when the audience wants to hear more of your playing. Make sure your encore is fun, short, and sweet. Here are my suggestions for some fun clarinet encores.
  • Think of themes. Although this is completely optional, I love a good thematic program. I’ve performed everything from cat-themed concerts, music by the same composer, or music highlighting different countries and cultures. Use your imagination and have fun creating unique themes. (You can also tie in your theme to the recital posters, programs, and other advertising.)

If you want to learn more about my thoughts on programming recitals, read this article I wrote a while back about how recital programs are like dinner parties (yes, really!). You might also enjoy my Recital Planning Timeline & Checklist.

Do you have any memorable recital programs? What have been your favorite recitals you’ve heard? Leave a comment below!