Many parents, especially those new to the Suzuki method, might view private music study as just another extracurricular activity that their child enjoys. There are a variety of activities in which children participate that take breaks, or have "off" seasons. When it comes to the violin, viola, or cello, it might be easy to think of summer as a time to take that break in the same way we take a break from gymnastics, soccer, or dance class; however, when studying a musical instrument continued regular lessons are essential for long term success.
Musical instrument study is a skill-based activity. As many Suzuki parents have come to understand, each new skill is a steppingstone on their child’s path to musical development and competency on his or her instrument. These skills require daily review to become an integrated part of playing. Think about the many reasons we do daily review of previously mastered Suzuki pieces during practice. We review for the development of skill in order to become a better player. Now imagine what might happen if we just finished learning all our Bach minuets in book 1, and then didn’t play them for three months. Most likely it would be a struggle to remember or demonstrate all the very important skills that were learned throughout those pieces, or even to remember what notes to play! A child might find it extremely frustrating to have to relearn pieces and skills that were previously mastered.
Motivation can be challenging for a child under the best circumstances. Typically taking time off from an instrument will require just as much time to relearn or re-master important skills. Now a three-month break can turn into a six-month stall in progress. During this time a child can become quite demotivated and frustrated; the exact opposite of what we aim to achieve. So instead, let’s view this time during summer not as a break, but as a way to recharge, inspire, and excite our children about music!
In addition to regular private lessons, summer institutes are a wonderful way to immerse your child in a week of fun musical instruction. During a Suzuki institute week, your child will receive daily private and group lessons, attend recitals, and participate in fun play-ins, concerts and a variety of other activities to shape a unique musical experience. Students and parents that attend institutes typically leave feeling completely energized about their musical study. This newfound motivation can be just the key to propel a child through a challenging time in progress or to help move forward to the next skill or repertoire piece.
As important as it is for continued musical study during summer, some parents find that being out of the routine of school can make finding a practice time challenging. Children are signed up for various activities and summer camps, families are taking vacations, and so it might feel difficult to keep the practice routine. Typically finding the same time of day to designate as practice time works best. Perhaps first thing in the morning after breakfast, after lunch, or before dinner are successful times of day for practice. Throughout the summer, this regular practice time might change depending on the week’s planned activities. Does your child work well with lists? Make them an activity list for the week that they can check off as they complete it. If you are going on vacation, and have decided not to take the instrument with you, plan to listen to the reference recording as your practice for the week. Dedicated listening is just as important as physical practice.
As parents and teachers, our goals for our children are the same. We want them to be successful to develop a love of music. Keep the conversation open with your private teacher if you find it difficult to maintain a practice routine in the summer, for ideas to help propel motivation if needed, and to find the right summer institute for your family. Parents can also plan local musical activities, such as a trip to Millennium Park for a free concert. Let’s inspire, motivate, and energize our children together!