Five Tips On Preparing For Your Final Undergraduate Recital

This week’s Five Things Friday post was written by trumpet player Karlynn Charette! As the new school year approaches, we think these are great tips for undergrad students to keep in mind.

Karlynn Charette is a Canadian trumpet player who has been playing since the age of 12. She spent pretty well all of her time during her high school years in the band room and was inspired by her high school music teacher, Murray McNeely, to follow in his footsteps. Now 25 years old, she has been studying music at post secondary institutions in Kingston, Ontario, Canada at St Lawrence College from 2011-2013 in the music and digital media program. She graduated with an Ontario College Diploma. Currently she is finishing up her Bachelor of Music degree at Queen’s University majoring on Trumpet and will be graduating this spring 2019. Karlynn is planning on applying to teachers college and working towards becoming a high school music teacher. She currently works two part time jobs at a Canadian Charity called Joe’s Musical Instrument Lending Library and a retail store called Canadian Tire. She is involved in her University Wind Ensemble, the Queen’s University Chamber Orchestra and recently joined the Lasalle Adult Summer band. Karlynn recently completed her final year of trumpet lessons at the University with professor Dan Tremblay and she has written about her experience with tips and tricks on how to prepare for the recital day.

1. At least eight months in advance: Pick out your repertoire
You want to be as prepared as possible and feel comfortable with your repertoire. I started to pick out my rep when I returned to my University in the fall of 2017 during my final year of trumpet lessons. You want to give yourself a variety to choose from and have some fun with, after all – you’ll be living and breathing this music for the next eight months until the day of your recital. Make sure to start narrowing down what you really want to play at your recital after the first month to six weeks. This will give you more then enough time to see if you really enjoy the pieces or not. If there is a time limit the school has given you for performing at the recital, this would be a good guideline to see which pieces are best and which ones are better left out. I found multiple recordings on YouTube and Naxos music library, plugged my headphones to my phone and went to workout at the gym. I would play the pieces over and over to get myself pumped up about preparing for the recital. I got a better feel for the music and thought about ways I could incorporate my own style of performing into the pieces.

2. Seven to eight months in advance: Get practising and be in tune with your health
Once you’ve picked out your repertoire, get practising. Even playing along with recordings can be fun and get you in the mood for working on them more regularly. I would also recommend performing your pieces in brass studios in front of your peers even if you aren’t quite ready and have everything together. This will help you greatly with any performance anxiety and get you comfortable for large crowd performances as well, you can get feedback on how to improve while you are still learning the material. You want to make sure you are taking care of yourself and your health as well. I was making sure I practiced everyday for my recital plus working on my ensemble pieces, and getting all my homework done on top of working and volunteering. Overtime it became a lot of work. I started to get run down and my body has been notoriously known for being prone to getting cold sores on the lips. This has been happening since I was about twelve years old. During the course of four months of August 2017 to November 2017, I had five cold sore outbreaks that really took a toll on my body and my trumpet playing. This really screwed up my ensemble audition as I had a week and a half to prepare the materials after my cold sore healed, I missed rehearsals with the wind ensemble and I even had to cancel some of my weekly trumpet lessons with my prof. It got to the point that my trumpet prof Dan recommended that I go to the doctor and get a prescription to help with the healing and reoccurrence as this year was very important for the recital. I finally found something that worked called Valtrex, its a medium to high dosage pill that helps clear a cold sore in a day and a half flat. It also works great for when I was run down and could feel that tingly sensation on my lips sensing that I might be getting another cold sore. I was able to stop it before it even happened! Also, it might not be obvious to a university student but getting enough sleep and eating properly and getting enough water is key to making sure you are in good health. We get so caught up in making sure assignments are in on time and pulling all-nighters, we often forget to take care of ourselves sometimes. Just keep in tune with your health and balance your practising and you will be ready in no time for recital day.

3. Four to five months in advance: Find your pianist
There’s nothing worse then showing up to the day of your recital and not having your accompanist and music in sync. Take the time to meet with your pianist and arrange how you will practice your pieces. Even discussing your payment arrangements is a big help as you already have so much you are preparing for. This will cause less headache trying to remember if you paid your accompanist or not. The way my pianist Kim and I worked this out was we split the payment into two sets, right halfway down the middle to make it match up to the day of the recital. Being a student is expensive and having multiple payments instead of just one at the end was a lot less stressful. We made sure to keep track of the dates and set up rehearsal times in advance on a regular schedule. My pianist Kim is the music director of her church so we used the building to rehearse. It is a great idea as it had similar room acoustics to the actual room my recital was in. I was even able to invite friends and profs to the church to listen in on the rehearsal and provide feedback to better prepare for the big day. When rehearsing with your pianist, do run through the pieces multiple times to make sure you are both coming in at the right times and everything blends smoothly together. If you have a pianist you are familiar and have worked with in the past, I highly suggest to work with them during your recital which is what I did with Kim.

4. Two months in advance: Rehearse your pieces in order two times a day.
By going through a mock version of your recital with a short break in-between, it better prepares you for when recital day comes. What I did when I started practising twice a day with my set list was place the music in order on the stand of which I was going to be performing. I would literally play through the pieces from beginning to end to make sure I was comfortable with them. When I heard that I was only allowed to perform at a maximum of thirty minutes, I timed myself with a break in-between to make sure I was able to reach this requirement. Running through everything twice a day also helped with better endurance towards the day of my recital as I had never played a solo show with piano accompaniment for that long at a time.

4.5 (Bonus Tip!) About a month to three weeks before: Practice in the shoes you’ll use during your recital.
I know this sounds silly, my trumpet Prof Dan mentioned this to me in one of my final trumpet lessons and I laughed at him. He was like, “Karlynn, I’m actually serious though.” So I went ahead and tried it. I had some previously loved shoes I was hanging on to in my storage closet and sorted through three pairs of wedge heels that I was undecided between. How I went about picking the ones I would wear the day of the recital: I literally brought all three pairs in a bag with me to the practice room at the universities music building along with my trumpet, mutes and music. I ran through two pieces of music combined – around 10 minutes of music. I would try on one pair and see how comfortable they felt and if my feet hurt, it was a no. I made the decision on a nice low to the ground white flip flop style heel and it was super comfortable the day of the recital. The only downside to them were that they made this awful squeaky noise in the concert room and the floor was wood and not tile like the practice room. I ended up taking them off halfway through my set list during the day of my recital. This was one drawback and I would have fixed this before hand, so my advice to those would be actually trying the shoes on at the dress rehearsal as that is the last time you have in the actual room for rehearsing before your recital day.

5. In the final three weeks and leading up to your recital: Programs, invites, advertise and dress rehearsal!
Towards the end of my preparation I was sending out invites to family and friends at about three weeks before the recital. The building where my recital was held is called The Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts and I went out and got some pictures done to make up the posters. The area is so beautiful! I managed to get a frozen lake with green grass as the background and me modelling with my trumpet as my poster. I made a little Facebook event to help advertise to the students in the music program. By the last week leading up to my recital, I was at the top of my playing and feeling so ready for the show. I made sure to make a rough draft of my program with the music on it including the title, composer and their year of birth and death as well as the intermission. I showed the copy to my trumpet prof to review and he helped fine tune it and then we printed the final version. I made about fifty copies of the program and had them ready to go in the folder for the big day. We did a dress rehearsal two days prior to the recital in the actual rehearsal hall. Everything went great and we ran through all the music in order in the half hour needed for the real recital day. On the day of the recital, I arrived about forty five minutes early to get into my gown and shoes. I watched a few of my colleagues perform and this really helped me to calm my nerves overall before I had to perform. The Bader Centre had a room available to warm up in and I spent about eight minutes roughly tuning and going over my difficult entry places. My recital was at 6:15 pm on Saturday, April 7th, 2018. I had a great turn out of my current and past profs, high school teachers and mentors, family friends, and my colleagues from the university. I was very happy with how the recital went and I got my marks back about a month after the recital. I finished with an 80% overall grade.

The university recorded the entire recital and I have five individual recordings available on my YouTube in a playlist if you would like to check them out here:

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