What do you want to accomplish this summer? Will you just get a nice tan or will you be more ambitious?
For me, since my teen years, summer was always about projects – reading the complete works of a single author, learning to knit (that one didn’t work out so well), practicing my Christmas repertoire, or maybe cleaning out the attic.
Naturally, I still went on vacation and hung out with my friends, but the possibilities inherent in the unstructured time of summer were too good to let pass by.
I still have summer projects, but I have learned something in the intervening years: summer time may be less structured, but it definitely seems to go faster. At the beginning of June, summer seems endless. But here at the end of June, I’m already wondering if I will be able to accomplish everything I want.
I would urge you to take advantage of this once a year opportunity and give yourself a project, particularly a project with a musical focus. What kind of a musical project might appeal to you?
I have always preferred projects that are a change of pace from the rest of the year. Sometimes I just need to relax, release the tension built up over the year and refresh my playing from the ground up. Other times I am looking for a new perspective, or trying to get a head start on next season. Or I could embark on a voyage of discovery of new styles or genres.
Here are a few of the projects I have tried in past years that might give you some ideas.
Now that the pressure of concerts is off, you can finally find the chance to refresh your technique. Take a week or two and concentrate on exercises, drills and etudes. To get the most benefit, be sure to concentrate on how your fingers are working; don’t just go through the motions. You can also review some of your repertoire paying special attention to your technique. Some focused technical work this summer will pay fabulous dividends in the fall. Won’t your teacher be pleasantly surprised!
Music with a Theme
If you want to play through some new music, try giving your explorations a theme. You could play music by one certain composer or from one country. You could base a theme around a time in history or a scene in nature. One of my favorite themes is to choose music by composers in alphabetical order: Monday might be Andres; Tuesday, Bach; Wednesday, Chopin; Thursday, Debussy and so on.
Take It Outside
When the weather is beautiful, take your practice outside. You will enjoy the fresh air and the neighbors will enjoy the serenade. I like to play on my covered patio surrounded by my flowers and plants. It turns practice into a mini-retreat.
Playing duets with a friend is not only fun, but it can absolutely help both of you sharpen your musical skills. You will find that your note reading and rhythm skills improve, your learning speed will increase and your repertoire will expand. Who knows? You may even be inspired to try some duo performances!
Call me crazy, but I love learning my Christmas repertoire in the summer. Somehow it is more fun to practice O Tannenbaum after a dip in the swimming pool than to cram practice it before that first Christmas performance. And when Christmas comes around, my music is ready to go! (A question for my southern hemisphere friends: would this work in reverse for you or not? Hmm… )
Learn Audition/Recital Repertoire
I always encourage my students to learn their district orchestra music, their exam pieces, their college audition repertoire in the summer. By getting the bulk of the music learned in the summer, we have plenty of time to polish and refine it once school starts again. It really takes the pressure off!
Something Old, New, Borrowed, Blue
Summer might be the perfect time to mix things up a bit. Review an old favorite piece. Choose a new piece to learn. Try your hand at arranging (borrowing). Play some jazz, some blues, some music in a genre you haven’t explored but have always wanted to try.
Whatever project piques your interest, this is your time – don’t miss it. Get started today, before you run out of summer!