Preserving School Year Skills Through The Summer

mike-giles-5655-unsplash.jpg

Summer is just around the corner. Both my kids are already counting down the hours. Daydreams of school free days and freedom from responsibilities is forefront on their minds.

While I too look forward to spending some extra time with my kids I also become concerned that the time off may bring some unintended consequences. My wife and I have made some real progress helping my kids develop better practice habits and my son even has an award to show for it (Sorry I had to brag.  We’re so proud of him). But the summer time presents a risky time for those hard earned habits and skills.

In my decades long experience teaching music I’ve witnessed many students make great leaps during the predictable and consistent school year only to fall behind or totally lose interest during summer break. Like any change in pattern staying consistent with disciplines can be quite challenging. Over time we develop certain grooves in our everyday routine and when that routine changes we can easily let things slip by the way side.

So the question is how do we develop a strategy for the summer that allows for the much deserved break yet still maintains our skills and habits as musicians. Here’s the plan that my wife and I are implementing this summer. Hopefully some of these suggestions can help you or the young musician in your house stay on track this summer:

 

Plan Ahead:  Develop a practice routine that fits into the new summer pattern before the summer even begins. We had a school year routine that involved practicing immediately after school that helped my son develop a good daily rhythm and get his after school hours off to a good start. We plan on doing our summer practice in the morning leaving the rest of the day open for summer fun.

 

Priority System:  The best strategy we ever implemented was requiring our kids to practice before taking part in other daily recreational activities. For us the big one was video games. We had a strict “no video games until you’ve practiced” policy in our house.  We almost couldn’t believe it when they started practicing without us asking. We’re going to keep this going for the summer.

 

Slow Down:  Lightening up on the frequency and length of practice is okay to do as long as there’s consistency to the plan.  Vacations and camps are also a time to slow down and get refreshed before returning to the routine. The most important part in slowing down and taking short brakes however is communication. It’s important to let your son or daughter know that they’re receiving a well earned break or a lightening up of their routine. Let them know that they’ve earned it but they’ll start up again come September.

 

Lessons:  Staying motivated and on the right track is a difficult task even with a consistent weekly lesson but with no lessons at all it’s virtually impossible. The guidance and accountability of a music instructor can prove to be the most powerful tool to staying on task. Lessons don’t have to be every single week but a few sporadic lessons spread out between vacations and camps can be a crucial motivating factor. Here at the school we do offer a more flexible attendance policy and packages that fit most student’s summer schedules. We’ll be announcing our summer lesson plans shortly so keep an eye out.

 

 

Again, I hope that you find some of these suggestions helpful and are able to find a good balance between a summer vacation and maintaining good habits. I’m looking forward to it myself. I love the summer!

 

As always I’d love your input on this or any other topic. Feel free to drop me a note with any questions or suggestions that you may have.

 

Looking forward to the music you’ll make!,

 

Jon Torgrimsen

Leave a comment

Filed under News

MAMTG 2018

Congratulations to all who participated in this year’s Mid Atlantic Music Teachers Guild music competitions and evaluations!  We’re so proud of all who participated.  Great job!

IMG_2583.JPG

Leave a comment

Filed under News

8 Things Top Practicers do Differently

dolo-iglesias-466047-unsplash2.jpg
The following post is by Dr. Noa Kageyama who has dedicated much of his work to studying how top performers practice their craft.  I’ve found his website The Bulletproof Musician to be a valuable resource for my students, my kids, and myself.  I hope you find the following post and his other work as useful and insightful as I have….

 

8 Things Top Practicers do Differently
by Noa Kageyama Ph.D.

As my kids were (begrudgingly) practicing their Tae Kwon Do patterns the other night, I caught myself telling my oldest that he had to do his pattern five times before returning to his video game.

My goal, of course, was not for him to go through the motions of his pattern five times like a pouty zombie, but to do it one time with good form and authority. But the parent in me finds it very reassuring to know that a certain number of repetitions or time has gone into something. Beyond the (erroneous) assumption that this will automagically solidify his skills somehow, it feels like a path to greater discipline, and a way to instill within my kids some sort of work ethic that will serve them well in the future.

Some degree of time and repetition is necessary to develop and hone our skills, of course. But we also know on some intuitive level that to maximize gains, we ought to practice “smarter, not harder.”

But what the heck does that really mean anyway? What exactly do top practicers do differently?

continue reading……

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Practice Effectively – Maximize Your Potential

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Perfect Practice

screen-shot-2017-11-15-at-3-53-07-pm1.png“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” – Vince Lombardi

Practice time is a sacred time. What we do in those minutes will make or break us. Those countless small moments add up to who we are as performers and musicians.  In these moments we are slowly transformed.

How we approach and use this time is crucial in our development. We owe it to ourselves to make the best of it.  The following are a few suggestions to consider before we next enter the practice room.

Avoid Distraction:
Make sure the place where we practice is free of things and people that will draw our attention away from the task at hand.  Televisions, computers, brothers and sisters, and anything else that impedes our concentration should not be part of the practice environment.

Isolate:
Many students will usually start at the beginning of a piece, fly through the easier parts, struggle through the tough spots, push forward until they’ve reached the end, and then repeat the process. This isn’t the most productive method.  Time would be better spent isolating the difficult portion and spending extra time on it.  We should be doing far more repetitions on the difficult parts than the easy stuff.

Save The Fun for Last:
When there’s more than one practice item be strategic about the order in which we practice. Whatever you’re least excited about should be done first.  Repeat this process until all that’s left is the most fun and exciting portion of the routine.  If we do the hard stuff first and the fun stuff last we’ll be less likely to put it off til next time and may even spend more time than intended as we find ourselves inspired by our favorite music of the session.

As we’ve discussed in the past it’s okay to start small. Simply enacting one of the above suggestions will have a positive effect on the quality of our practice. You’ll be more productive and if done consistenly the results will pay off

As always if you have any thoughts or suggestions on the topic I’d love to hear them!

Looking forward to the music you’ll make!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Tips For More and Better Practice

markus-gjengaar-162730

Whether you’re a parent of a budding musician or a musician in the making yourself we all know how important practice is in reaching our goals. We’re also aware of the effort it takes to get to the practice room on a regular basis. Then when we get there we’re not sure of ourselves.  Is there a better way to make use of this important time?

As a long time musician I can attest that it still takes great discipline to practice on a regular basis. My world is far busier than it’s ever been but I’ve developed some simple rules and techniques that I’ve applied to myself as well as my children. The results, while not perfect, have proved very satisfying and beneficial for both my kids and myself. They’ve shown to be positive in both musical and mental well being.

Some tips:

1.  Start Small

If practice is almost non-existent start with a humble goal.  I usually suggest doing 5 minutes more days than not.  For example, make a commitment to practice for 5 minutes on 4 days this week.  It may not sound like a lot but it’ll make a big difference especially if we’re coming up from almost no practice. After a few weeks of this add a few minutes to each session.  Repeat the process until we’ve reached a sufficient amount of time and it becomes a habit.

2.  Make It A Routine

If we wait for the right moment to practice we’re not going to practice.  Make it a scheduled daily event.  It should be something that if we miss we’re acutely aware of it.  Schedule it.

3. It’s A Workout

The Webster’s Dictionary definition of practice is as follows:

 to perform or work at repeatedly so as to become proficient

The key word here is “repeatedly”.  Doing a thing over and over again is how we get better at something.  The more we do it the better we’ll be and the better we leverage our time the more we’ll do it.

Set a timer for each practice item and play it again and again until the timer is up.  We should treat practice like a workout.  Just like we decide how far or how long we’re going to run before we get on the treadmill we should decide how long or how many times we’ll perform a specific musical exercise.  Like a good physical workout if we do it with intensity and focus the results will be superior and we’ll make the best use of our time.

In the spirit of tip #1 I’m going to stop here and pick up where we left off in an upcoming post but in the meantime I encourage  those of you who are struggling to practice consistently to try something small this week. Do it with focus and accomplish it with a well deserved pride. Great music is built one note at a time and so is a great musician.

Looking forward to the music you’ll make!,

Jon Torgrimsen
Owner and Director

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Music Can Improve Your Academic Performance!

Hi All!
Here’s hoping everyone had a great summer!

And with summer over the school year is upon us.  I’d like to share with you a reminder as to why we all value a music education and how it can help us in the classroom this year.

The following is an excerpt from a PBS article highlighting the ways that a music education can help a student far beyond the notes, scales, chords, and melodies they’re learning.  Find the full article here.
“A study published in 2007 by Christopher Johnson, professor of music education and music therapy at the University of Kansas, revealed that students in elementary schools with superior music education programs scored around 22 percent higher in English and 20 percent higher in math scores on standardized tests, compared to schools with low-quality music programs, regardless of socioeconomic disparities among the schools or school districts. Johnson compares the concentration that music training requires to the focus needed to perform well on a standardized test. 

Aside from test score results, Johnson’s study highlights the positive effects that a quality music education can have on a young child’s success. Luehrisen explains this psychological phenomenon in two sentences: “Schools that have rigorous programs and high-quality music and arts teachers probably have high-quality teachers in other areas. If you have an environment where there are a lot of people doing creative, smart, great things, joyful things, even people who aren’t doing that have a tendency to go up and do better.”

And it doesn’t end there: along with better performance results on concentration-based tasks, music training can help with basic memory recall. “Formal training in music is also associated with other cognitive strengths such as verbal recall proficiency,” Pruett says. “People who have had formal musical training tend to be pretty good at remembering verbal information stored in memory.””
All of us here at Bridgewater School of Music are wishing you a fruitful and musical new school year.

See you all soon!
Jon Torgrimsen

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized