Perhaps you were lucky enough to have Santa (or Grandma) give you some cash for Christmas this year. What could be better than to put that gift to good use by investing it in yourself and your love of music? Whether you are a music student, music professional or you just play for the love of it, I offer ten tips for spending that gift to make your musical life easier, richer and more fulfilling.
1. Stock up on accessories. Take advantage of the year-end sales at many music stores and stock up on strings, tuners, metronomes and any other essential tools that you use everyday. My favorite suggestion for harpists: a spare tuning key to keep in your car’s glove box!
2. New music stand or stand light. Improve your outlook with a new, less rickety music stand or a brighter stand light.
3. New repertoire. This is the time to add a few new items to your “must-learn” repertoire list. Include a couple of stretch pieces to push you a little, some shorter pieces useful for gigs, and a couple of sight-readable fun things to play.
4. Schedule a coaching. Now is a great time to schedule a coaching with a professional you admire. You can pick someone close to home, or create a mini study-vacation by selecting someone farther away. It’s a great way to tune up your skills or check your preparation for that big concert or college audition.
5. Plan a spring or summer music retreat. There are many options for summer study, from camps for aspiring students to less structured retreat programs for adults. Do your research and find the right one for you.
6. Buy concert tickets. I consider concert tickets the ultimate luxury item. My own performing schedule is so full that the only way I am able to hear a concert is if I plan in advance and buy tickets. And attending a concert is something we all need to do to keep our knowledge current and get inspired.
7. Take a language course. This may not seem directly related to music, but recent research (“Music, Language and the Brain,” by A. Patel) has discovered deep cognitive connections between the two. Studying a language could not only help your musical study, but help you on your next international tour!
8. Pamper your hands. Buy some handwarmers like Hot Hands, or some comfy mittens or gloves, or even better treat yourself to a manicure. I have a pair of down-filled mittens that I count on when the weather is cold and snowy.
9. Take an Alexander Technique course. Alexander Technique has been studied by musicians for nearly a century, and is a great way to learn to use your entire body efficiently when you play. If you have any issues with tension, you may find Alexander technique helpful.
10. Get social. There is nothing so much fun as being part of a group of people with the same interests as you. Look for a local group to join or start one of your own. Harpists can look for American Harp Society chapters near them. You can seek out community music groups of all sorts. Try some specialized online sites, like Harp Column’s MusicStand site. Just get out there and join the party!