The answer to that question is, honestly, the same as any other time of the year: You take lessons, and you regularly practice what you have learned in those lessons. If you're able to do this, you can actually kick your musical studies up a notch. Without school or homework, practice can take a priority. Students who are naturally morning people can take advantage of summer mornings to get some quality work done. You may ask your teacher if you can take extra lessons - or attend an intensive music camp. I'll write more about different ways you can do this in a different blog post.
For families who are traveling for extended periods of time, or students who are pursuing other activities during the summer besides violin - that's fine. Summer provides a myriad of opportunities to see the world, visit family, explore new things, and to just relax. It's a good thing to take time off, and I believe that the more well-rounded a person is, the better off they will be. However, if this sounds like your summer, you need to accept the fact that you will most likely NOT be making the same amount of progress that you would if you were studying and practicing violin regularly. Your goal, then, should be to maintain your level.
Setting the goal of maintaining your level releases you from the pressure to "make progress" or "learn a new song," which are two of the things I have parents and students asking me about the most. When a student is taking a lot of time off during the summer and not practicing as much, we have to change our goal.
We succeed when we meet our goals. If your goal is to finish Suzuki Book 1, yet you only take four lessons in the entire summer and practice very little, you won't meet your goal, and you'll feel really bad about yourself. If your goal is to make sure you can play all the Book 1 songs you already know really well and to have a tall violin all the time, then you will meet it, and you can feel that you've had a successful summer.
So, maintaining your level. How to go about this? Here's a list, in no particular order, of different ideas to keep your musical brain active during a summer when violin isn't part of your daily routine.
- Go to concerts and watch people play violin.
- Listen to recordings of the music you've been learning wherever you go - in the car, on the airplane, etc.
- Make a plan to review old repertoire - but with a new focus, such as one particular element of technique. Ask your teacher for suggestions of how you can work on review pieces.
- Review all your old scales - and invent new bowing for them.
- Read books about musicians.
- Try to practice for just 5 or 10 minutes a day. Believe me, it makes all the difference.
- Even if you don't have your violin with you on a trip, try to sing through your pieces or clap the rhythms.
- You can also try visualizing yourself playing violin - imagine the violin on your shoulder, the bow in your hand, and see if you can "play" through a scale or a piece in your mind.
- Instead of watching Frozen for the billionth time on your road trip, invest in some DVDs or digital downloads of classical music concerts. Suggestions include: Leonard Bernstein's Concerts For Young People series, The Art of Violin, or Beethoven Lives Upstairs. Artists who have DVDs of performances out include: Jascha Heifetz, Midori, Julia Fischer, Anne-Sophie Mutter, and Gil Shaham.
- The Berlin Philharmonic offers a Digital Concert Hall as a monthly subscription service that includes full performances of concerts, interviews with the players, and documentaries about the orchestra. Download this on all your devices!
Most importantly, let go of the expectation that you will make progress in the same way you were during the school year. Embrace your summer. Don't agonize about the fact that you're not learning new pieces. Accept that you will have to do some level of review and re-learning when you return to lessons in the fall - but realize what other wonderful things you've brought into your life this summer.
If, at the end of the summer, you realize that you missed playing violin regularly or that you want a different plan for the following summer, talk to your teacher. Ask them what you need to do differently next year to make sure that violin plays a more important role, and then take their advice.
Have a great summer, everyone - stay tuned for a new blog post soon about how to kick your studies up a notch in the summer!