Lindsie Katz, Violinist 

What are your plans for the summer? Hanging out with your friends, spending lots of time outside soaking up the sun, having fun, and making amazing memories? I hope you are able to do those things and many more, especially those activities that include music. Listening to music is such an essential element to many activities that we don’t necessarily notice that it’s there, except for the times it’s not. Music is life after all, right?

This summer, I urge you to consciously include music in your life. Many of you are either parents of music students or taking music lessons yourself, and summer can be a tricky time to balance maintaining music studies and taking necessary time off. Speaking as a musician myself, I know how important it is to take breaks without cutting out music all together. These breaks can come in many forms, but here are 5 fun and easy ways you can keep up with music over the summer:

#1: Listen to Music

There are so many ways you can listen to music. You can listen to music alone as a meditative tool, you can have listening parties where everyone has a chance to share something they have recently been excited about, or you can turn up the volume (to a safe level) and dance around!

The great thing about listening is that you can do it wherever you are – in the car, in your home, on a plane, on the beach, wherever. As long as you have a device and headphones, you’re all set. This summer, allow yourself to get absorbed in the exciting spiral of finding new pieces, new styles, new composers, and see what gems you discover. This process can inspire your own music-making and help you find motivation to continue practicing during an extended break like the summer.

Just for fun, here’s an album I have been listening to on repeat lately >>

#2: Attend Live Concerts

One of the best and most enjoyable things to do (any time of year) is to attend concerts. Any kind of concert! It doesn’t always have to be the kind of music you play, just going to listen and see musicians perform is a great and fun activity. It is exciting to hear and watch musicians do what you do.

One special activity for people near Boulder, Colorado in the summer is to attend Colorado Music Festival concerts at Chautauqua Auditorium. (Did you know that the Center for Musical Arts and the Colorado Music Festival comprise one organization?) The Festival musicians are some of the best in the world. Life can’t get better than listening to incredible music in a beautiful venue during a warm summer evening.

#3: Participate in Jam Sessions

Otherwise known as “sight-reading parties,” jam sessions are get-togethers where you read through pieces of music for fun with friends. It’s a time to play your dream pieces, practice your sight-reading skills, add to your repertoire, and have lots of fun.

Especially in the summer when you have extra free time and can probably stay up later than you would during the school year, jam sessions can go for hours and be paired with food and drinks and lots of laughter. You could even play a mini-concert for your neighbors, as long as it’s at a reasonable time (maybe not 2am). 😉

#4: Create Goals for Your Music-Making

This is an important task for music students to prioritize as you head into the summer. Making both short-term and long-term goals can help you stay on track even while we are taking much needed breaks. You can do this with your teacher’s help before summer starts and it can be useful whether or not you are taking lessons throughout the summer. For instance, choosing one piece to have prepared by the end of the summer is a realistic goal that encompasses the flexibility needed and wanted during an extended break.

In order for long-term goals to succeed, though, we also need short term goals. One approach is to separate the piece you’re working on into sections and plan out which sections you will have ready by certain dates. Another way is to look ahead in your schedule and choose the days of the week you will practice as well as the days you will leave open. If you plan ahead like this, it frees up the mental space for you to focus on the creative side of playing, which is what we all want anyway.

If we only focus on long-term goals and don’t have a method to achieve them, we will constantly be disappointing ourselves, and as a result become discouraged about continuing to play. Music is too amazing to let ourselves quit just because it can be difficult. What incredible thing hasn’t at one point or another been challenging? Celebrating small successes along the way to a bigger goal can help us feel more fulfilled and help us to have more consistent motivation because we are giving ourselves regular credit for our hard work.

You are worthy of success and happiness, so don’t let challenges be obstacles that stop you from continuing; they are just bumps in the road that are a normal and necessary part of your journey to discovering your potential.

#5: Create Music-Related Projects

One of the best ways to have fun with music, especially when you have an extended break like the summer, is to come up with fun music-related projects. This can be composing a piece in any way you want, writing a story about a piece of music, making a piece of art related to a piece of music (drawing, painting, taking photos, etc.), making a Powerpoint of all the reasons you love your favorite piece, or organizing casual concerts for your neighbors, family/friends, or a community like a retirement home, for instance. There are so many creative ways you can connect with music, even away from your instrument, and having time away can reinvigorate your love for your instrument when you return to it. The most important thing is to have fun and connect with the creativity that lives inside of you.

If you create the space necessary to succeed…

…you will be surprised by where music can take you. I know I am continually surprised by all the opportunities that arise in my life because of music, and I will be forever grateful for these incredible experiences and the chances to connect with some of the most amazing, caring and creative people.

We all need breaks – it’s how you use the time off that makes the difference for when you return. However long you have been away from your instrument, make it a big deal when you come back – say hello and get to know it again! This may seem silly, but it makes a huge difference in how you feel reconnecting with your instrument and therefore with yourself. So go have some much-needed, wonderful time off in the summer sun and let us know how these tips work for you.

Do you have different ways that you keep up with music over the summer? Tell us about it!