Should my kids take music lessons over the summer?
With the final days of school drawing to a close and the prospect of summer vacations and days spent at the pool, I get asked daily about whether my private students should continue lessons over the summer. My answer is always yes! As a private music teacher, I am always the first to say that music lessons shouldn’t stop when school is out for the summer. There are several reasons why I believe that music lessons should continue year round.
1. Private music teachers don’t get as much time with their students as other teachers. Your child has spent the past 9 months or so with their schoolteachers for several hours 5 days a week. That’s about 1,000 hours or so of school each year. Kids need and deserve a break from all those hours! However, private music teachers see their kids at the most 1 hour a week. For the school year, that’s a maximum of 36 hours. For students taking 30 minute lessons, that’s 18 hours or less of music instruction each school year. Adding another 4-10 hours of music instruction in the summer doesn’t even begin to bridge that time gap, but the consistency of lessons keeps kids’ musical skills from deteriorating over the summer. Which brings us to point #2:
2. Practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect. At the beginning of every summer, I have families promise me they’ll have their kids practice over the summer while they are gone. I have never had a student come back from their summer break more practiced and a better musician than when they left in the spring. In fact, most of them come back and tell me they haven’t practiced all summer. And those that have practiced without weekly lessons tend to have started and continued to practice bad habits. Music teachers only get a limited amount of time with their kids each week, however, that time is extremely valuable in correcting technique and errors in practice. A weekly “check-up” with a student’s music teacher helps the student continue to refine their practice technique at home and allows them to maximize their practice time.
3. More time, less stress! I always tend to do the activities I love most in the summer, when there are fewer commitments and less things vying for my attention. I am often bewildered when parents sign their kids up for 3-hour swim practices every day during the summer but then cut music lessons for the summer. If they have the time and energy to devote their mornings to swim practice, don’t they also have the time and energy to devote their attention to getting better at music? Most of my students have a deep, soul-fulfilling connection to their music. I always love seeing those students who take that free time in the summer to truly enjoy music and take those extra hours to practice because there is no test or homework looming over their head, cutting into their practice time.
4. Summer camps. Most students have already auditioned and received roles in summer musicals and summer music camps. I love that my students work so hard to find other music opportunities, but I also encourage them to continue lessons as they are enrolled in those camps. Getting that one-on-one attention to practice parts and solos is invaluable and always leaves a great impression on the directors of those programs. The kids that show up with their parts not only memorized but also analyzed for character choices and expression are remembered and favored for the next summer’s program.
5. Retention. This is by far the most important point. Students tend to forget about 2 months (2 months!)* of what they learn in school over the summer. Music learning is the same. There are always the students who come back at the beginning of the fall semester and have to work really hard to get the rust off their fingers. Think about it: the students who attend music lessons in the summer will be 4 months ahead of the students who take the summer off from music lessons. In 3 years, that student will be a year ahead of their peers who take the summers off!
Private music lessons offer so many valuable skills to children, especially during the summer. The beauty of learning music is that we, as music teachers, get so little time with our students, and yet, we see them grow into these amazing musicians. The human brain is incredible and flourishes even on one measly hour of instruction each week. Consistency in music lessons both for students to continue to improve on their instrument and also to keep the love and dedication to their music alive.
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*statistic from http://www.oxfordlearning.com/summer-learning-loss-statistics/