Being Ready for College
So, you moved into your dorm, you set up your lawn chairs, purchased a year supply of ramen, gotten your text books, and scouted out where your classes are. What have you done to prepare for the coming semester of music lessons? Here are a few steps and guidelines of what I wish I would have done as an incoming freshman and I hope this can help you ease into the school year.
The first step SHOULD come before you register for classes, but in reality, this is something to be aware of for your second semester. A lot of college campuses are huge. I went to University of Iowa, and at the time, the Music Department was operating out of five buildings. Buses were pretty reliable; commuting was unpredictable depending on parking and several other factors. But the point I am getting at is to make sure you scout out where rehearsals are, where your lessons are, and make sure you give yourself at least an hour to get prepped. The last thing you want to do is give yourself ten minutes to walk all the way across campus, get your instrument put together, and warmup. This will leave you frazzled in the first part of rehearsals, and without a solid mental warmup, you probably will not perform to your best standards. Giving yourself at least an hour allows you time to eat, travel, get your horn ready, and take your time warming up.
The next step is to communicate with your applied lesson teacher. This will likely spend the most time with over the next 4-6 years and this is a great way to begin building rapport with them even before the school year starts. Ask them what material they require you to have for lessons. Most studio teachers will have a list of etude books, solos, and excerpts they want each student to own. Treat this like you would any other course and make sure you have the material before your first lesson. Studio teachers like to hit the ground running and it is ideal if you don’t have to waste a week of lessons waiting on your music to show up.
Additionally, make sure you ask about any supplies that will help you be successful. Hopefully you already have these, but I would be sure you have a WORKING tuner, metronome, and a device to record yourself. I cannot recommend enough that you purchase a tuner, metronome, and recorder that are not apps on your cell phone. I learned this lesson the hard way. I would sit in a practice room with the metronome on my phone, practice for five minutes, get a notification, and then before I knew what hit me, I was practicing for five minutes and playing Clash of Clans for an hour! Unfortunately, phones have turned into toys rather than productivity tools and it is hard to be productive when you have Pokemon Go sitting in the same room as you!
Next, I would frequently check the school of music page for audition announcements. Chances are if you are auditioning for band or orchestra, these auditions will be held the first week of school. Most schools will post audition times and repertoire weeks in advance on the school of music web site. If you wait until the first day of school find out about audition material, you will likely be behind in audition prep. If there is no audition repertoire posted and you cannot find any information, make a list of the top band/orchestra excerpts and practice those. You can use this as another opportunity to contact your applied lesson instructor.
Next, make sure your instrument is properly working and you have the necessary supplies to keep it in working condition. For string players, make sure you have extra strings, rosin, peg compound, cleaning cloth, humidifier, etc. For brass players, make sure you have valve oil, slide oil, a snake, mouthpiece brush. Also, if any repairs need to be done, I would try to get those completed before school starts, this way you are not missing out on any rehearsal time and lessons your tuition is paying for!
Finally, try not to give into temptation and take the whole summer off practicing. Give yourself the best opportunity to succeed and that includes spending time in the practice room. If you do not know what repertoire to work on, then spend some time doing scales, etudes, improvisation and technique. I hope this list will be helpful and while it is not an all comprehensive guide, this should help you take a step towards being prepared for your first day of college. Good luck!