04.22.18

Summer – A HOT Time to Grow Musically!

Posted in helping your child succeed, practice, summer preparation at 5:00 am by Administrator

Summer sun

After a long year of playing in band class, many kids are tempted to stuff their instruments in the closet on the last day of school and leave them there until fall. Unfortunately, forgetting about one’s instrument over the summer can lead to needless frustration down the road. In this article, you’ll learn why summer is one of the best times to play music, and discover easy ways to grow as a musician when the weather’s hot.

Why play over the summer?
Musicians are athletes and strategic thinkers. We train our muscles to perform precise actions, and use our brains to do the detective work involved in fixing musical problems. When we use our musical skills, we make them stronger, sharper, and better. On the other hand, when we stop practicing, we become out-of-shape. Just like having to go on a diet after overeating on Thanksgiving is no fun, returning to music at the end of a practice-less summer is very frustrating! When you keep playing, you prevent yourself from growing a musical potbelly, and you build musical muscle with every note you play.

Practicing over the summer doesn’t just help you grow musically; it keeps your thinking skills polished as well. Playing music presents us with a variety of problems to solve, like “Why did I miss that note?” and “How is this supposed to go?” When you practice thoughtfully, you’re building valuable problem solving skills that can help you in many subjects besides music. By practicing, you’re actually preparing yourself to do well in school next year–no textbooks required!

Another reason to keep practicing is practical–to keep your instrument in good working order. Regular use keeps instruments healthy; when you don’t play your instrument for months on end, problems develop that can result in costly repairs. If the valves on a trumpet aren’t moved regularly, the oil dries up and the valves get stuck. Likewise, stashing a clarinet in the garage all summer can cause its pads to pop off, making it unplayable. Every fall, repair shops are flooded with instruments that are broken due to a summer of neglect. If you play all summer, though, you can save that repair money to buy something you’ll really enjoy.

Instruments aren’t the only things that suffer when left unused. Imagine your first day of band class after summer break. You take out your instrument just like you did last year, but something’s different. That pretty tone you developed last year is gone, and you’ve forgotten half your fingerings. The instrument that you once played easily now feels awkward in your hands. Discouraging, huh? Fortunately, this story doesn’t have to come true. If you choose to play over the summer, odds are you’ll return to school sounding GREAT!

How Parents Can Help
The first step to helping your child to practice over the summer is developing a positive outlook on summer practice, and communicating it to your child. Practicing over the summer doesn’t mean your child won’t be able to relax and enjoy the vacation; it just means he’ll spend a few minutes each day playing music. While practicing an instrument requires effort, it’s also a fun activity that doesn’t need to take up much time. If you present practice as a drudgery that will take all the fun out of summer, it’s likely that your child will put her instrument down. However, if you frame practice as a fun and creative activity, your child will be more likely to excitedly continue playing.

You may also want to talk to your child about the benefits of continuing to play music over the summer. Ask your child about her experiences this year in band class. Does she enjoy how she plays? Has he learned a lot? Then, introduce the summer as a great time to become even better at music, inviting your child to imagine how great she’ll sound after 3 more months of practice. If your child has a competitive streak, have him imagine what might happen on the first day of school if he practices and no one else does. What will the teacher’s face look like when she hears that wonderful sound? What will the other students say? Imagining positive outcomes can help motivate your child to keep practicing.

Another great way to motivate your child to practice over the summer is to augment your regular music lessons with fun musical camps. Many local music schools offer mini-camps that focus on different kinds of music. Camps like these give kids the opportunity to learn about new musical topics and styles in a fun atmosphere, and provide plenty of chances to make new friends. Also, universities like UNC-Greensboro offer weeklong band camps designed for young musicians. These camps are especially exciting for kids, because they allow them to meet new friends, play challenging music, and stay at a real college campus.

If you’re short on cash, just being there for your child can help. Encourage her to find a special time and place to practice, and make sure that you show your support of your child’s musical endeavors regularly. Consider having “concerts” at your house, where your child gets a chance to play for family and friends. If you have a recording device, try making recordings of your child playing a piece of music at the beginning of the summer. Then, at the end of the summer, help your child make another recording of the same piece. Make a point to watch or listen to both recordings side by side, and celebrate the progress your child has made by practicing over the summer.

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