My Circus-Themed Epiphany

My Circus-Themed Epiphany

NOTE: This blog post will get updated regularly as my ‘Circus Theme 2023’ concert project progresses!

I have discovered that themed concerts are the way to go. Two years ago, I had my first one. We had been doing the Spanish soundscape all through terms 3 and 4, so everyone got into the Spanish spirit and dressed up for the occasion. These pics are from my ‘Piano, wine and cheese’ night with the adult students.

Sam in circus-themed costume                 

Then last year, I did a ‘Blue’ theme, following on from a whole module on the 12-bar blues. Everything was decorated blue.

Blue-themed Piano, wine and cheese night

Blue themed Piano, wine and cheese night                  Blue themed Piano, wine and cheese night

Now, the problem with themed concerts is that there is a LOT OF PRESSURE, year on year, to think up a good theme! It was already August and I was stressing that I still didn’t have one up my sleeve… until finally, earlier this month (September) I remembered I had recently released a Rote Repertoire bundle called ‘At the Circus’. I had an epiphany… a CIRCUS theme would be just the thing! Imagine how fun it will be to dress up for that one!  😊

First, I did some research so that I could dedicate Term 4 to circus-themed repertoire. So far I have come up with:

  • The Clown by Kabalevsky
  • Clowns and Circus Maximus from Getting to Prelim
  • Comedians Gallup from Exploring Grade 2
  • Sabre Dance by Khachaturian
  • Any Sousa marches
  • Music about elephants/lions (although perhaps this isn’t very woke)
  • Sobre las olas by Juventino Rosas
  • Any and all songs from The Greatest Showman (in particular two awesome duets by Michelle Madder: The Other Side and Rewrite the Stars)
  • Any of the six pieces from my At the Circus bundle

If you think of any more, please write them in the comments!!

I figured not all students will end up performing these at the concert, but they will have fun trying them out during Term 4.

In addition to this, I wanted to do yet another ‘Level 4 Whole Studio challenge’. This is where I get everyone on to the same piece at the beginning of the term. All students learn Levels 1-3 (some in 3 weeks, some in 3 minutes!) and then they create their own Level 4, finessing it over the term, with help from me. Everyone then plays their Level 4 in the concert.

This is really fun and I have done this twice before with great success. Here is an excerpt from a webinar I did with Leila Viss, in which I describe the Level 4 Whole Studio Challenge I did with a little piece called ‘Semi Disco’.


I have decided that the piece I’ll use this year is the one simply called ‘Circus’. It’s a quirky little elementary piece which features a great introduction to 2-note chords and optional hand-crossing. Here is the ‘Level 3’ version (which is where students get after learning Level 1 by rote and Level 2 by spotting the difference):


So far, all students have learned this and some have begun to create their Level 4 version. It’s going to be great fun. I’ll keep you posted as to how it goes!

P.S. If you are interested in the six pieces in the Circus Bundle, you can preview them on this page by clicking on each title. It’s also on crazy special at the moment, with an additional $5 off… here is a link to that special 😊

Samantha Coates

Samantha Coates is a professional pianist and teacher with over 25 years experience in both private and group tuition. She is the author and publisher of BlitzBooks, the music education series that has captured the imagination of students across Australia and transformed the teaching of music theory, sight reading and general knowledge.

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