It’s Summertime again and the school year is over, leaving our students and families to plan what to do with all of their free time – A trip to the beach, a family road trip, maybe even pick up a new hobby?
It seems like every year they brush music to the side so that they can enjoy whatever vacation time they do have, only to come back to lessons in the Fall with a lot of catching up to do.
Since most students take a break from lessons during the Summer months, how can we encourage them to stay in shape with their instrument while still helping them feel like they’re getting that much-needed break?
Here are five brilliant practice tips to help your students stay in shape over the Summer.
If students stop thinking about music and close off their emotional relationship with it, then it’s much harder to find the willpower to practice when not having lessons over the Summer amidst so many other fun distractions.
Encourage your students (and their parents) to find the time to go to concerts (of any kind) and try to listen to the music they play and want to be able to play so that it remains strong in their consciousness.
It doesn’t take much, but it’s amazing what a difference this makes in their playing!
Stay Disciplined (When They’re in Town)
Many people take extended trips out of town during the Summer, so the time they do have to practice is significantly limited.
To remedy this, encourage your students to plan out their calendar as much as possible and be sure to make a practice schedule for the days they know they will be at home.
It’s important to stay continuous in practice whenever possible, as days off usually call for some time to get back into the swing of things.
Practice sessions can be shorter than during the school year, as long as students maintain a constant (or as constant as possible) connection to playing the piano.
This is the best way to avoid that “rusty” feeling in September.
Set Reasonable Goals
During the school year, students have regular lessons, recitals and competitions to challenge them, but during the Summer they seem to be on their own.
Having goals moves them forward, and the key for efficient Summer practice is setting modest goals.
Choose 1 or 2 pieces for your students to work on by themselves so that they can bring them to their first Fall lesson in good shape.
Encourage them to have a family recital at the end of Summer to challenge them, or to make a recording of their pieces at least once.
And encourage them with all of that extra time on their hands to think about what pieces and styles of music they want to tackle next.
All of this will help motivate them to be self-disciplined.
Work to Strengthen a Weak Skill
One great way to take advantage of the Summer break is to focus on strengthening a weak skill.
Establish what this is for each student and show them how to work on it effectively.
In addition to their regular practice, they should take the time to sort through whatever particular issues they may have deliberately.
Summer break gives them the space to address these kinds of deficiencies without the stress of the hectic school year schedule.
Overall – Have Fun!
That’s what Summer break is all about, right?
So encourage your students to improvise, compose, or make arrangements of their favorite songs.
It’s good for them to do things that make them happy to be a musician.
Remind them to enjoy themselves, be inspired, and stay as continuous as possible in their practice by setting modest goals.
These practice tips will help them come out of the Summer with an even deeper connection to music and the piano!
About the Author: This guest post about staying in shape during the Summer months is by Carter McMullen from the Baltimore School of Music. You can read more about Carter and his work below.
Carter McMullen is a piano teacher at the Baltimore School of Music. He holds a Master’s degree from Georgia State University and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia, both in Piano Performance. He continued his music studies at conservatories in Paris, France and London, England.
Carter maintains an active performing schedule including solo and chamber music, instrumental and vocal accompanying, and jazz. He toured South America three times with the Chase Educational Foundation, giving concerts and masterclasses in Argentina and Chile, and has performed in concerts in France, Italy, the UK, and the US. He regularly collaborates with performance students at the Peabody Institute.
In 2017, Carter founded the Union Square Chamber Music Society, and as Artistic Director, he organizes monthly salon concerts in which he regularly takes part as a performer.