Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Summer Practice Schedule

Morgann Davis
By Morgann Davis

It’s almost summer, and we all know what that means - no homework, no assignments…freedom! But wait, did you practice for your flute lesson?

With a schedule that includes long vacations and the absence of a structured school day with carefully planned evenings, keeping students on task (and moving forward) over the summer months can prove challenging.

I’ve enjoyed finding creative ways to keep my students motivated during the summer, exploring each student’s interests to help provide a map for navigating our vacation season lessons. Logistics can be tough in the summer, so I begin by providing a calendar to each family so they can share the dates of their summer vacations and camps with me. This also helps them put our lessons on their family calendar in advance, leaving less chance for a lesson cancelled due to a last minute pool party or BBQ with friends. Having done this, I ask each student if there is a piece they would like to learn for fun over the summer while we have less “project” pieces to prepare for school, solo and ensemble or auditions. This has turned up all sorts of things from Harry Potter to Taylor Swift and Irish folk music to Chaminade. Allowing the students to choose something they have had their eye on keeps them involved in the learning process, and perhaps extra motivated to perform the piece they picked independently on an end of summer recital.

Having allowed each student to have some fun choosing a piece usually makes them more willing to take on some fundamental practice during the break. Previously, I have hosted “practice challenges” in my studio (usually to kick off the school year) where I encourage students to compete with themselves (more than with each other!) to see how efficient they can be when they practice, and how much time they can purposefully dedicated to their flute each week. Having done this activity earlier in the year means that during the summer I can remind each student of what they did that helped their practice previously, and that they may even be able to find more time for their flute during vacation! For some, this means setting a timer, for others it might mean keeping a practice journal. Whatever it was that motivated their practice during a busier time of year may just lead to even more success in the summer.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention summer music camps as an excellent way to help young flutists stay motivated. There are many wonderful camps available to our students covering a variety of topics and interests from chamber music to large ensembles, jazz or folk music for all instruments, and camps that are focused specifically on the flute. No matter the ability or interests of the student, it's likely there is a camp that suits them. These experiences build social skills as well as musical skills, and my students almost always come home with many new friends and a fresh perspective on playing their instrument. As an added bonus, the process of preparing for camp placement auditions also helps to provide purpose in summer practicing!

Whether camps,“fun” pieces or other projects are the motivators for your students, I think the key to maintaining momentum over the summer months is creativity on the part of both the teacher and the student. Lessons during vacation should somehow feel a bit different from the school year, and often the personalities and suggestions of our students can help guide what activities we do to keep flute fun, even while the pool is calling our name!

* To read more about Morgann Davis, visit her website at

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