Every year I write a Halloween story and incorporate the pieces the students are playing into a story. This is the format I use for a Halloween party for my younger students, usually grades from 1 to about 6. I don't make the story very scary so that no one is upset. I usually find a story from the internet or the children's library and adapt it to the pieces. Sometimes this makes the story a little ridiculous but the students don't seem to care.
One reason I think this works well is that it takes the focus off any nervousness about playing and makes it a non-threatening performance opportunity. Also, they never know when their name will come up in the story so they listen pretty well and are then happy to play their pieces and be a part of the story. For some students this is the first time they have played for others, and for everyone it is the first performance opportunity of the year. This is usually their favorite piano party of the year.
I got this idea from Nancy Gottshall more than 20 years ago. The only downside has been that the students love it so much that I now have to make up a story for every year!
THE SCARE (SAMPLE HALLOWEEN STORY FROM 2015)
One crisp, fall afternoon, a week before Halloween, an invitation arrived in Simon's mailbox. He was invited to a Halloween party at Jim's house. The invitation said no mean tricks or scary costumes. The year before, Simon had had a Halloween party at his house and there were a lot of scary costumes and some mean tricks. Jim had served a Witches' Brew made with monster eyeballs from a big black cauldron. WITCHES' BREW-MAEVE HINTON. There was a scary HALLOWEEN WITCH-SPENCER CHARPENTIER, and that witch was doing a tarantella dance to scare away the big spider on the floor. TARANTELLA SCARANTELLA-TEAGAN POSEY. There were also scary looking things that went BUMP IN THE NIGHT-MARIN PARK. And there was scary music playing, BALLADE-JESSICA MULLIN. Jim had been very scared and had gone home early. This year he told Simon the party was at his house so nothing scary would happen. Now Simon was upset about this because, what was Halloween without a little scare??? Although Simon loved all the candy, what he loved most was the scaring.
The next day, Simon went out to find a costume. On his way, he passed by Jim's house and decided to stop in to see how things were coming along for the party.
Inside, he looked around for signs of scary decorations but all he found were a bunch of jack-o-lanterns-JACK-O-LANTERN JAMBOREE- SAMANTHA EILL. True, there were a few black cats prancing around. BLACK CATS DANCE-JESSICA LI. There was also a picture of Merlin doing a MAGIC SHOW-BRYNNE MUSHLIN, but nothing looked very scary.
So, Simon knew he had to find a really scary costume to liven the party up a little. After all, it was Halloween! He decided to be a scary ghoul with blood dripping from his mouth. COOL GHOUL-HAN TANG.
Wearing his scary costume, Simon arrived at Jim's house for the party. All the lights were out. Simon knocked on the door but there was no answer. He pushed the door and it opened but creaked shut after him. It was totally dark! Then Simon thought he heard some SPOOKY FOOTSTEPS-BRYNNE MUSHLIN. A big shape started toward him. Simon said to himself, I'M NOT AFRAID-KYLE WU. But, the shape came closer and Simon screamed, he was so frightened. Maybe scaring people wasn't such a good idea after all!
Suddenly the lights went on. The room was filled with all his friends in costumes. The dark shape was really just his friend Jim in a CREEPY CROCODILE costume-KYLE WU. And, there was his friend, Dayna, dressed up like a Gypsy. GYPSY EARRINGS-DAYNA MUSHLIN.
Jim was afraid Simon would be mad at him, but after thinking about it, Simon realized Jim had just turned the tables on him from last year. He realized it was all in fun and enjoyed the rest of the party. People did a jazz dance-SLIDE EASY-HAN TANG and a POLONAISE-JAMIE MUSHLIN and enjoyed listening to a SONATINA IN G- JESSICA MULLIN. Halloween was still Simon's favorite holiday. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!