By: Ruth Meints, Executive Director, Omaha Conservatory of Music

We’ve all heard the phrase “the lazy days of summer.” However, when the summer months roll around, they should be anything but lazy! With kids out of school and the deadlines of classroom assignments no longer looming, it’s a perfect time for deep exploration of interests and the rigorous development of skills particularly associated with the study of a musical instrument.

School band, orchestra, and vocal programs provide a wonderful opportunity throughout the school year to experience music, work as a team, and learn basic skills on an instrument.
Neuroscientists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan (Ryan & Deci 2000) have studied motivation and found three key factors for success:

1. Autonomy – Being able to do something independently
2. Competence – Being able to do something well
3. Relatedness – Doing something in a community that values the activity

The summer months are a phenomenal time to work on the “competence” component of these ingredients. As a child, my mother always encouraged me to utilize my summer break to increase my efforts in my violin practice. She even signed me up for auxiliary piano lessons, which proved to be incredibly valuable when I entered college as a music major. Her standard comment was always, “You know, while everyone else is taking a break, you can accelerate. You never stay the same; you’re either moving forward or losing ground.” How true!

If your child has begun the study of a musical instrument through a school program or even private lessons, they have taken many steps forward throughout the academic year. If they do not play their instrument over the summer, they will take several steps backwards and begin the next school year playing at a lower level than they ended the previous one without a doubt. As rags to riches entrepreneur Jim Rohn so eloquently said, “Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.”

However, if they use the summer to attend music camps, take private lessons, increase the length of their current lesson, or even take lessons on an auxiliary instrument, they will undoubtedly increase their growth pace to a jog or maybe even a run! Summer offers more hours in the day to practice, which can often solicit a groan from a student musician. But, more hours of practice can mean moving from 30 minutes of daily practice to 45 minutes, which is a 50% increase. Over the course of the twelve-week summer break with practice only 5 times a week, they will have logged a whopping 45 hours of practice! That’s going to produce a result!

When the new school year begins, they will enter the band, orchestra, or choir room with a sense of confidence. With their competence level increased, their overall contribution to the ensemble will also be heightened, which in turn, brings feelings of self-efficacy, fueling motivation, and the positive cycle continues.

Grit and resilience are two words that have been a topic of conversation recently, specifically related to students who are successful versus those who are not. The in-depth study of an instrument brings together several ingredients which develop these important characteristics. Nothing can surpass the value of having goals for achievement coupled with a teacher who takes an individual interest in a young musician’s development by offering challenge, structure, and belief in the student’s ability to accomplish great things. A weekly private lesson with
one-on-one attention will foster quick technical and musical progress.

An enriching music camp experience that submerges the student in the language of music with peers of the same persuasion is a true motivator which can inspire throughout the academic year. Friendships formed at a music camp often become lifetime connections. Students are often heard saying things like, “These are my people” or “I’m already counting the days until I see you next year!”

Most importantly, developing a growth mindset as an essential skill will create lifelong learners. This is the time to make summer plans, as we snuggle up next to the fire and bundle up against the icy wind. Summer music events are already scheduled and waiting to be discovered. As the heat waves ramp up, there’s plenty of music staves to explore in Omaha and across the country. What exciting musical adventures and growth opportunities will you pursue this summer?

For more information about music programs and lessons, contact the Omaha Conservatory of Music at 402-932-4978 or visit our website at www.omahacm.org/programs-events.