Dog at Beach

My recent article on 3 Summer Practice Tips for Young Musicians got a huge response along with some really great ideas from fellow teachers throughout the country and even internationally. I wanted to showcase those ideas here, add a few more of my own and provide a special bonus video for you. (I couldn't resist this picture – it's too funny!)

1. Summer Music Camps 

Some ideas to keep in mind for summertime are camps that have music programs.  Your local school district, or even neighboring districts may have 7-8 week morning summer camps where students can choose a variety of classes in addition to getting group lessons and performing in an ensemble everyday. Often, there is a concert at the end of the term. I have had many students participate in my own school district's program with great results. In fact, many of these programs teach beginners their first notes and basic technique so that when they go to school in the fall they are able to join the more advanced groups.

As Emily W., Private Studio Teacher and Violinist with the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, and Stephen M., Minister of music at The First Baptist Church in America and Adjunct Faculty Rhode Island College,  have suggested, Summer music programs at colleges can provide opportunities to participate in group lessons, masterclasses, ensembles like orchestra, concert band, wind ensemble, as well as chamber groups like brass quintets, string quartets and wind quintets. There are programs for younger students to explore not only performance, but learn music theory and composition too. For more advanced students, there are usually auditions in the early Spring to get into some elite programs, such as those at Interlochen, New York State Summer School for the Arts (NYSSSA) and Tanglewood Institute.

Summer music camps can change your life. When I was younger, I had the honor of being accepted into NYSSSA and studying trumpet with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, as well as performing in wind ensemble, brass quintet, and in the jazz ensemble. That experience changed the way I approached my own composing. The next year, I was accepted into the very first group of Young Composers at Tanglewood. That was also an incredible experience, as my music was performed by a brass quintet whose members are now performing as the world-renowned Empire Brass Quintet. I also got the opportunity to meet and observe Leonard Bernstein conducting the student orchestra. There are no words to describe that incredible experience!

Check out www.MajoringinMusic.com for great ideas and suggestions for researching these camps, along with suggestions for choosing the best camp for your needs. Also check out this guest post by Barbra Weidlein on my site and my podcast with Barbra on this very subject.

Jazz and Popular Music Camps

No longer just for adults, there are also summer jazz camps and programs for teens too. The world-renowned Jamey Aebersold jazz camp at the campus of the University of Louisville in Kentucky are week-long camps designed to pair people into small ensembles at their own playing level and help them learn to improvise through lots of performances, jam sessions, ear training, theory classes and listening to concerts with world-class jazz artists.

For those on the west coast, there's also the Jam Camp West, a 6 day camp for 10-15 year olds that explores a wide variety of music and has well-known music performance faculty.

Many local music stores, as well as School of Rock and from Bach to Rock and many others, also have summer music programs that culminate in a performance at the end of the term. Groups are formed based on playing ability and rehearsals and theory classes are held regularly.  This is a great experience to allow students to build their ear training skills, perform popular music that they like and perform with others outside of their school.

2. Explore Composing and Recording

Many times we only think about performing just classical music at music camps, but there are also courses that allow students to compose music, record and sequence music through computer technology programs such as GarageBand, Logic, ProTools, Finale and Sibelius. Places such as the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Georgia Tech, University of Maryland's FAME Music Technology Summer Camp, amongst many others.

Arrange Songs You Like

When I was in elementary school, there were some really great theme songs to TV shows (back when there were theme songs!). A close friend of mine said to me one day, “Donna, why don't you figure out the theme to Dynasty? It's got a great trumpet solo.” So I did, and that started a lifetime of arranging music for my bands and for others.  Encouraging students to figure out their favorite songs by ear, and then write them down builds SO many skills, such as ear training, understanding harmonies, writing notation, understanding rhythms, etc. Even in the very beginning, just figuring out and writing the melodies to songs can be so beneficial and fun.  (By the way, if you want to learn how to do this and how I teach it, check out my Fun Song videos here.)

After I finished Dynasty (I did it pretty quickly), my friend challenged me to write out the theme to Dallas as quickly as possible. I took the challenge, and did it in an hour, transcribed and all. I was a proud 11 year old!

 3. Perform at Different Venues

Summertime is when everyone goes out and attends festivals, farmer's markets, library events, concerts in the parks, festivals at the beaches, etc. Concerts at assisted living facilities, nursing homes, churches, ice cream socials and religious institutions are greatly appreciated and a great way to give back to the community. Many music directors and private music teachers plan student performances at these types of venues.

Perform in Different Ensembles in Your Community

Jaette C., Co Founding Teacher and Music Director Hopewell North Music Cooperative, has her students play a Duet concert in July: the student performs with a parent, grandparent, sibling, other family member or friend. Jaette comes up with interesting “duet food” combinations to serve at the event. What a creative idea!

Practicing Contests

As David Motto, Author, Musician, Speaker, and Performance Preparation Coach has suggested, have Practicing Contests with Your Students (or even your children). Here's how David does it:

Who can practice the most days in a row? The winner (or winners) gets a prize that has value to whatever age your particular students are – from pre-Suzuki to adult, doesn't really matter. Tricks to making this contest successful: (1) How much time spent practicing doesn't matter. 5 minutes counts on any given day, as long as some amount of practicing happened. (2) You need an easy way to track students' practicing so that students can write down each day they practice. An online system is best. (3) All students need to see what the other students are doing so they feel there's a contest that they can win. (4) Your definition of “practice” may need to be adjusted. If a student is on vacation and has no access to their instrument, then reading sheet music, listening to recordings of songs to be performed, doing visualization exercises, and doing hand and/or breathing exercises all need to count as practicing.

DOWNLOAD this free pdf to find out the 5 things you MUST consider before buying an instrument. (Hint…it's not what you think…)

 Bonus tip

In my recent article, 3 Summer Practice Tips for Young Musicians, I mentioned that everyone can improvise – and that's very true. In the video below, I show one way I start beginners on improvising that gets their “feet wet” and gets their creative juices flowing. All you need is one major scale, or even just 5 notes that can be played with good tone quality and good articulation.

Here's the video:


Here's a link to purchase Jamey Aebersold's Volume 24:

 Action Steps:

  1. Did you like this article? Please “Like” it, share on your social media and Comment below about which suggestion you liked the most and may use for your students.
  2. Summer's also a great time to start choosing and working on next year's solo for Solo Festival evaluations and All-State auditions. Want to give your students' parents a valuable resource that answers their questions and gives their child the edge at the annual Solo Festival next year? Click here for more info.
  3. Does your student have an embouchre issue that stumps you? Want tips for helping your beginners to read music? Sign up for my weekly newsletter to get tips, ideas, notes of inspiration, and also a free pdf on the 5 Things You Must Consider Before Buying an Instrument.

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