Another school year has come and gone so we now happily begin to turn our attention towards the summertime. Even the word summer triggers feelings of excitement and ambition in most of us as we plan for vacations, camps and for students, the free time that comes from a hiatus from school! However, here at the Murfreesboro Music & Arts I have noticed a summertime trend that is both perplexing and a bit disturbing… Many of our fantastic lesson students are electing to “take a break” from their weekly lessons for the summer. This has gotten myself and many of the music teachers stumped. Why would you want to take a break from something that you love doing? Thinking back to my summer vacation days I remember waking up every morning and immediately picking up my guitar to play for hours on end, often times until my parents returned home from work in the evening.
So this past weekend, in an effort to reverse this fad, I joined forces with two of the many wonderful lesson teachers here at the store to answer one question: Why is it beneficial for budding musicians to continue taking lessons during the summer? Fifteen minutes later, each of them had a listed some really interesting reasons why stopping lessons can be crippling to students.
Let’s start with Laura. Laura is one of the Music & Arts piano teachers with 15 years of performance experience and 13 years of teaching experience. The first point that she made concerning lesson stops came from her experience with students who had “taken a break” from lessons and then come back later to begin again. One fallback she had found was that students who had previously stopped lessons had nearly always forgotten much of the material that they had covered leading up to their lesson stop. For instance, if a student had taken a 3 month break for the summer and come back in the fall, they had to relearn a significant portion of the material that they had learned before. So essentially instead of missing 3 months of lessons they were set back 5 months. Also, their technique generally suffered greatly because they had gone for such long periods of time without practicing or conditioning their skills. Another reason that Laura gave for continuing with lessons during the summer is that since music draws on elements from math, reading, art and creativity, it is perfect for keeping your brain stimulated while being away from school. I’m sure parents would appreciate the educational benefits that come with musicianship more than the influence of excessive TV or video gaming. Finally, Laura presented the age old question: What else are you going to do with all of that free time? Better to be doing something productive over the summer than to waste time sleeping in!
The second teacher that I spoke to about lessons was Bob. Bob has 48 years of performance experience and has been a session player for Michael W. Smith, Toby Keith and Clay Walker. Bob’s first response was much like Laura’s, in the summer you have much more free time making it the most optimal time for efficient practice. He also felt that it is important for strengthening technique so that you don’t lose your skills while taking a break. Excelling in music is the same as excelling in sports or school; you have to keep doing it in order to improve and also to keep from falling behind. Finally, Bob like many accomplished musicians suggested that it is important to become one with your instrument so that it is an extension of yourself, thus bringing a familiarity to your skills that can only be gained through consistent, disciplined practice.
So there you have it! Plenty of good reasons why it is not only beneficial to continue practicing during the summer, but also detrimental to your progress to “take a break.” Like my university guitar instructor always told me, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”