As I am writing this, I am beginning another year’s Harp In The Mountains Festival. This is the seventh year that I have hosted a small group of dedicated harp students, mostly high school and middle school age, for a week of ensemble playing and learning about the harp.
This year the students range in age from 11 to 17, and as you might guess, their skill levels are very different. But I am sure that this year will be no different from other years. The week will work its magic, and we will surprise ourselves with how much we can accomplish in one week.
Perhaps my favorite thing about this week is the feeling of pride that the students come away with. They know they are performing at a higher level when they leave than when they came. And they leave camp not only having had a fun week, but having improved reading skills, ensemble skills, technical facility and confidence. How does this happen in just one week?
There are several factors behind this growth spurt, and they provide helpful hints for all of us in our daily practice.
1. A Concentrated experience. Most of these students practice more here in a day than they do in a week at home. It is an immersion experience that allows for deep and focused learning.
2. Intense coaching. They are not given the stack of music and sent to a practice room to practice. We work on it together. All the time. Learning goes faster with a coach to push you.
3. Short deadline. Our program has to performed at the end of the week. Then deadline is a critical part of the plan. It helps the, focus on the job at hand. Even students who aren’t motivated practices at home sneak in extra practice time here.
4. Group learning. Working together helps everyone. Each is interested and invested in the others’ progress. The group becomes that rising tide that lifts all boats.
So how can this help you today?
1. A Concentrated experience.. Experiment with keeping your practice task small. Do one thing, practice one piece for a week until it is done. Concentrate your work, instead of diluting it.
2. Intense coaching. Try a weekend or weeklong workshop. Ask your teacher if you could schedule three lessons in one week, just to help keep you on track.
3. Short deadline. Your deadline doesn’t actually have to be a performance. Sometimes we practice better, if we limit our practice time. You will probably find you will practice with more focus and better results if you shorten your practice time by 25% or so. Knowing you only have that short span of time to get your work done can be a big motivator. Not to mention the time it saves you.
4. Group learning. Start a harp circle. Play duets with a friend. Try some chamber music or harp ensemble. You can even learn a new piece with a buddy. The learning time is faster and it’s much more fun.
Try concentrating your practice this week!