When I was growing up, my piano teacher did not offer student recitals. She thought that the nerves students felt when performing were not worth the risk. Yet, public performance offers many benefits to both the audience and the performers. And if you can turn such an experience into an altruistic act, everyone benefits.

After 25+ years of teaching, I have seen performance opportunities act as an immense learning experience for students. I used to take 2nd graders to the local senior center to sing for the residents. I would play piano and they would run through the “2nd Grade Winter Sing” program. The children were nervous. They improved a lot of their somewhat goofy behavior. Taking the students to a public venue was a great outreach for the school. And it was wonderful for the residents.

In later years, I took my middle school orchestra to assisted living centers. Middle schoolers know they aren’t as cute as little children. So, having to perform for seniors made them want to practice so that their pieces sounded good.

My current students are getting ready to play at an assisted living facility in my community. This is a wonderful opportunity for them to practice community service. It’s a great chance for parents to reinforce values of community over values of entitlement. And it’s an easy way for me as a teacher to reinforce these values in my student class.

In my teens, my mother worked as an activity director at a nursing home. She was always looking for activities for the residents. My sister and I would perform for them every couple of months. We both played two instruments, so we would accompany each other on flute and violin. We would play piano solos and we would play flute and violin duets. We had to learn to work together.

It brought both of us valued performing experience. And it brought the residents joy to interact with younger people. I continued the same tradition with my own children as they grew up. And now I am continuing it with my class of students.

We know that altruistic acts benefit both the giver and the receiver. As a popular song from the 1960’s said,

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love.”

Song by Jackie DeShannon

What better way to express that sentiment than through the gift of music!