Chances are you’re excited about school being out for summer…I couldn’t agree more! School gets so busy towards the end of the year. Testing, sporting events, concerts and other happenings can all take a toll on your child's practice routine. Once the dust settles from the end of school year festivities, kids with a less full calendar of things to do all too often become bored and need some ideas about how to best spend their time.
If you, or your child, are interested in maintaining or increasing music performance skills from the last day of school through the first day of school the most effective approach is through facilitating time spent on task. Of course, continuing music lessons is a great start! Your child’s private music teacher is the best resource for keeping your son/daughter motivated throughout the summer months. S/he should also be able to recommend outside performance opportunities to support your child’s efforts while introducing them to other students with similar interests.
Whether practice/lesson/rehearsal time is spent on reading/writing, solo/ensemble, classical/jazz, theory/improvisation/composition it will be time well spent. No time spent on furthering your child's music development is wasted. Whether they're continuing to develop skills or exploring new horizons, personal growth will occur.
Just think about the amount of progress “Johnny” or “Suzie” made from September through June? First year players should have progressed from learning how to open their instrument case to playing a simple Beethoven melody. Now, multiply that progress by 20%! Students who continue lessons through summer surpass those who do not, by far. The amount of progress made is directly related to the amount of time and effort they put into their individualized practice.
All players, regardless of age/level, should practice six days per week. While some may be able to maintain a 7 day per week schedule, most of us benefit from a day off! Beginners should practice at least 10 – 15+ minutes per day. Intermediate players should practice 30+ minutes per day. Advanced players should play every chance they get (45 minute minimum)!
What’s the bottom line? You get out of it, what you put into it. The more you play, the better you get. The better you get, the more rewarding your experience. It sounds simple, right? Like many things, it’s easier said than done.
Some students take the summer “off” from lessons. While this may work for them, it will not help maintain a competitive edge along with the highest level players within the same age group (or beyond). Other students take lessons, purchase high quality instruments and regularly practice the appropriate amount of time. The difference between the student who advances beyond their peers, or skates by and holds their own, could very well be those two short months which seem to fly by (a.k.a. summer “break”).
If you approach the summer as a continuation of learning, growing and being the best that you can be, amazing accomplishments can be realized. The student who was behind catches up, the student who was mediocre becomes great. The excellent student becomes outstanding. Anything can happen when individuals spend time, each day, working toward a personal goal; improving their personal best.
Whether or not you seek lessons or supplemental performance opportunities for your child throughout the summer, the most important thing is for your child to pick up their instrument every day. Even if it’s for a short amount of time – doing a little bit each day will help to prevent the “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome. You never know, maybe that “spark” igniting self-motivation, passion for music/performance and a sense of personal pride in achieving personal goals will be sparked in July or August? While most of the kids in your child’s class are taking a “break” from continued development, why shouldn’t your child fly above and beyond the norm and fulfill their potential?
I must admit, as a music educator with 15+ years’ experience in the instrumental music classroom…it’s always astonishing to witness how much individual progress can actually be “lost” over those two months that fly by. On the other hand, I’m equally blown away when I see how much progress can be made during those same two short months.
I know I’ll being using this summer to my advantage to achieve my personal goals. Shouldn’t we all?