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The Importance of Consistency in Music Study

“Use It Or Lose It!”

You have made a substantial investment in your child’s education.

Music is kind of like exercising; if you exercise your body regularly, there has to be a benefit in great health. But, just because you exercised for 10 months straight, doesn’t mean you can stop exercising for 2 months and keep your health exactly where it was the last day you worked out!

No, of course not.

What REALLY actually happens is, your health begins to deteriorate slowly. Do that for a number of months, and all of your hard work is reversed.

The same thing happens in MUSIC. Your child (and you!) have worked hard on their instrument/voice all school year, and if they take the summer off from lessons they will LOSE IT because they didn’t USE IT all summer long.

Imagine what would happen to your waistline if you didn’t exercise and ate whatever you wanted for 2 months! (If you are one of those people who can eat cheeseburgers and french fries all the time and never gain a pound, please don’t tell me!)

So, USE IT (your music lessons, that is) and keep the momentum going all summer long so you don’t LOSE IT! Learn new things in a more relaxed setting, when your child has more time on their hands to practice without juggling homework.

Why When you don’t “Use” it, you “Lose” money:

Many parents figure they will “save money” by stopping music lessons for the summer. This is actually quite a big short-sighted decision – because it is not taking into account the “attrition” of skills and techniques, and having to re-learn these things come Fall “Back to School” time. If you have to learn something TWICE you have wasted your money.

Here’s how you “Lose” when you don’t “Use”:

January 2011: Pay $100, learn middle c position, play various songs in middle c position, learn notes and rests

February 2011: Pay $100, continue middle c position, play hands together and apart, learn a contrary motion c scale, reviewing music terminology from 2010.

March 2011: Pay $100 tuition, learn C Major Position, C Major scale, using chord progressions

April 2011: Pay $100 tuition, continue C Major Position, learn F Major Position and scales

May 2011: Pay $100 tuition, continue above, learn transposition in C and F; learn rests values

June 2011 (only 3 weeks): Pay $75 tuition, prepare for recital; continue above

Total: $575

July 2011: OFF (no tuition, no learning)

August 2011: Off (no tuition, no learning)

September 2011: Pay $100 tuition, struggle through songs from June 2011, re-learn C Major position, do hand exercises from 2010 because fingers have lost some dexterity and independence, student is frustrated and losing morale

October 2011: Pay $100 tuition, re-learn F Major position, continue C Major position, practice scales from 2010 and 2011 to get finger strength back to where they were in June 2011. Still frustrated, student wants to quit. Parents are now frustrated, too.

November 2011: Pay $100 tuition, getting ready for Winter Recital, but have to pick a song learned from May 2011 because the student has not been able to learn any new material — they’ve been stuck re-learning material from March-June, 2011.

December 2011 (only 3 weeks): Pay $75 tuition, perform in Winter Recital. Student feeling better about their playing, now back in a consistent practice routine. Play a Winter Recital song that is on the level of where the student was at as of June, 2011. Teacher can now plan to learn new material after winter break, in January 2012.

Total: $375.

However – if you review the above, you’ll see that this is the SAME $375 that was ALREADY PAID between March and June. Nothing new was learned, it was all re-learned. So, this was a waste of $375.

TOTAL PAID FOR 2011: $950

However, $375 was a waste – parents paid TWICE for the same learned material!

Plus: Motivation waned; parents had difficulties and stress at home between lessons; student misses the opportunity to do the Studio CD for the holidays, students’ overall satisfaction is down.

What would have happened if the student took lessons in July and August?

January – June 2011, same as above: $575 total

July, 2011: Pay $75 (took vacation); learned G Major position, scales in G Major. Since the student doesn’t have homework and therefore more disposable time, the student is assigned duets with another student, and some fun, popular pieces which encourages him/her to practice more. Technique soars, motivation increases!

August 2011: Pay $75 (took a week off): Learning transposition in CMajor, FMajor, and GMajor; scales are fluent, finger dexterity and independence have increased, the practice routine has been consistent throughout the whole year, and the student is loving playing duets.

Summer Total: $150

September, 2011: Pay $100; Student is adjusting to the new school year, so the teacher cleverly assigns challenging but fun pieces, gives student finger technique exercises, has student write a song in either C, F, or G as a relaxing project.

October, 2011: Pay $100; Student is already thinking about the Winter Recital, so teacher starts assigning Holiday pieces to work on; since the student’s technique and practice has been consistent, teacher also assigns a Christmas Duet with another consistent, trustworthy student. Start to learn hand over hand techniques, including arpeggios, in C, F, and G.

November, 2011: Pay $100: Continue working on duets and Holiday songs; refining expression marks such as legato, staccato, marcato, sforzando, and dynamics such as crescendos and decrescendos.

December, 2011: Pay $75 (only 3 weeks): Getting ready for Holiday Recitals, work on stage etiquette and audience etiquette, do a fun “recording project” with GarageBand in the teacher’s studio; take part in the “Holiday Studio Make a CD Project” with the other students who are ready — give out the cds as presents to family members.

Fall Total: $375

Total for the Year: $1050

AND: Student’s motivation is consistent and flourishing, back to school time was an easy transition as the student was used to practicing in all year long, stress at home is limited, and student was able to advance substantially in their material. Students’ hands have been improving and advancing in their capabilities. Student has had encouraging and motivating new experiences, such as playing duets, playing new, more advanced material in the Winter Recital, and is SO proud of being a part of the Holiday Studio Make a CD Project! Student practice with little to no effort from the parents. Student identifies himself/herself as a musician to friends at school, and is happy to show off to their class.

Although in Scenario II, the parent paid $100 more for the yearly tuition, the student has advanced consistently and is that much closer to having “music for a lifetime” instead of just “music for now”. The parent has made an INVESTMENT in the child’s future and the future of their grandchildren – this kid will likely continue in music until fluent enough to play for fun, at parties for friends, and perhaps even make money at this or go to college and study there. This is an enriching, consistent, and educational experience – part of the child’s fabric of life.

In Scenario I, it appears the parent paid $100 less, but in actuality they paid $375 MORE because of the repetition. The child had a rough start to the school year because he/she had to re-create a practice routine at the same time they were adjusting to their new grade level. The parents were stressed at home in between lessons, and even contemplated quitting altogether at a few points. The child does not see himself/herself as a “musician” as it is not consistent in their life. If this continues over a few or more years, the child will likely quite by the time they go to high school, and will lose these skills forever – they did not make “music for a lifetime.”

Bottom Line: Don’t take the summer off!

Summer Study Abroad

Enrolling in a summer study abroad program could be the most memorable educational experience for students. This is their chance to discover and explore a new country while expanding their knowledge at the same time. Students can choose from different programs offered around the world.

Summer means school break for most students. This is the season when they can relax and have fun. They usually go to different tourist destinations to explore beautiful scenic spots and experience extraordinary outdoor activities.

Summer is not only a season for recreation. It could also be the best time to enrich the skills of the students. A lot of universities from across the globe are offering summer study programs for foreigners. Enrolling in such courses is a great opportunity to learn new languages and the culture of other countries.

Students who want to pursue a global career will benefit in language study programs. Language immersion is the most popular course that students take during summer. Some include sports, leisure, and cultural activities in their language programs. In this way, students will learn and enjoy at the same time. The usual length of study ranges from four weeks to eight weeks.

Students who do not have funds to spend in summer studies abroad can still enroll through scholarships and financial aids. The chances of getting scholarships are high if the program is approved by the home institution and will earn credits to the student’s degree. There are study abroad institutions which can also assist in getting financial help for students.

Students can choose from any part of the world where they want to have their summer study programs. The popularity of such programs started the universities of different countries to offer courses that suit international students.

Europe is one of the top destinations for summer study programs. It offers a wide variety of courses. Students may go to Spain to take language immersion class. They may also go to Milan where the first International Fashion and Cosmetic Academy is located. For those who want to be musicians someday may enroll at London Centre of Contemporary Music in England. Other courses available are Culinary Arts, Interior Design, Furniture Design, and many more.

South America is also an option to learn the Spanish language and its culture. Architectural study programs are also offered, and priority is given to students majoring in architecture. South America has also a lot of magnificent natural attractions that foreign students may enjoy.

Central America offers many courses for marine life study. Experience underwater adventure and explore aquatic wildlife. Some institutions are offering Divemaster Intern Program (DIP). The students will get PADI Divemaster Certificate upon completion of the course.

Asia is the largest continent in the world. It is composed of countries with varying cultures, religions, beliefs, tribes, and languages. Foreigners with Asian Studies majors can choose from different programs that will earn credits on their academic subjects. Language is not to be a barrier because most schools use English as their medium for teaching.

You could approach some Summer Studies Abroad Provider should you wish to be an exchange student come summer time. First, there is the International Studies Abroad (ISA). ISA provides summer study programs to 14 destination countries. Language Programs International (LPI) which is ISA’s sister company provides programs for high school students.

You could also go to the American Institute for Foreign Studies (AIFS). It started in 1964 and is one of the leading providers of study abroad programs. It caters to 16 different countries. It offers discounts to students whose family members became participants in one of the AIFS programs. AIFS also grants scholarships to deserving applicants.

There is also the IES Abroad. This company started in 1950 and has almost 60 years of experience in providing study abroad programs. It has more than 80 programs to choose from. It has already produced 60,000 alumni.

Another option is to inquire at Intrax Study Abroad. They provide high school study program abroad in more than 16 countries. Students may choose from a summer program to an academic year. Included in the program fees are domestic and international fares.

Back to School Strategies to Make a Smooth Transition

After a summer of freedom and lax rules (and occasional boredom), kids often have mixed feelings about going back to school.  Younger students may be longing for the active busy-ness  of school.  Middle-schoolers may be anxious to get back with their friends and social events.  And, high school students are a mixed bag–some will be ready to put-nose-to-grindstone; others may dreading another year of drudgery and disappointment.

 Following are some tips to help smooth the transition from summer to school.  All of them apply for all age groups, but you may want to modify the specifics for your child.

1) For a Good Morning start, get a good night’s rest–plan on a routine time to be in bed.  Establish regular bedtime habits that relax and slow your child down so he/she is ready to go to sleep.  Younger kids should go to bed earlier than teenagers.  But teenagers often find their biological rhythms are out-a-whack.  It may be too much to try to force a teen to go to sleep at a particular time, but you can enforce a no-TV rule and a phone curfew.  Quiet reading in the evening can help your teen get into a habit of earlier to bed.  FYI, most teenagers need more sleep than you’d think–and with high school starting early and homework keeping ‘em up, they don’t always get the sleep they need.  Do your best.

2) Prepare the night before school so morning isn’t a rush–set out school clothes, prepare lunch boxes, collect school items and put them where they’ll be all together and easy to find.  All kids, even teenagers need guidance to be organized.  When morning time is a rush and crush, things get forgotten and the family mood can get testy.  So, perhaps part of quiet time can include preparing for the next day.  It’s also helpful if there is a shelf or table on which each kid’s stuff can be ready to grab so they can run without frantic drama. 

3) Eat a good breakfast. Kids can focus better if they aren’t hungry–so be sure they have time and the good foods are available.  If you can, avoid sugary cereals–or at least complement them with milk, yogurt (for protein).  Protein is digested slowly and the nutrition is time-released so kids are nourished all through the morning–ready to learn and be actively involved at school.  It also makes sense to give them a dollup of Vitamins and Minerals with a piece of fruit or glass of non-sugary real fruit juices.  If you can, make breakfast a sit-down event allowing enough time to avoid gulping or shoveling.  An anxious body won’t digest good foods as well and may actually make your student(s) physically uncomfortable. 

4) Be positive–expect your child to enjoy school, expect enthusiasm, and share your appreciation for their effort and successes.  Kids reflect what we think and say.  So, be sure you talk about your positive feelings and thoughts–about school, about education in general, and proclaim your confidence that your student will enjoy school and be successful.  Avoid phrases like: “I wasn’t good with math either”, “I always hated history class”, or “I can’t believe your teacher assigned THIS”!  Instead, demonstrate a positive attitude and keep your negative experiences or thoughts to yourself.

5) Talk together a language-rich environment is important for student success.  Ask questions; listen to your child’s ideas/thoughts; and share your positive experiences.  Dinner-time is a great opportunity to practice language and communication skills.  Turn off the TV, set the table together, sit down together and converse about your day, your child’s day and what he/she learned or experienced.  When your child says something you don’t understand, encourage him/her to explain it to you (without judgment or argument, of course).  The idea is to give your kids a positive environment to stretch their vocabulary muscles. 

6) Homework Hints–make sure your student has a quiet place so he/she can concentrate — or have “family quiet time” so everyone can read or do homework in a quiet environment.  When you demonstrate your commitment to your child’s learning process, he/she will develop respect and appreciation for learning as well. OK, maybe not right away.  But when the family rule is “quiet time between 7 and 8 PM” (for example), kids are more able to focus without media distraction.  Quiet background music can smooth the mood–but no TV, no Video Games, no talking on the phone.  For younger kids, quiet time is a good time to read to them or with them.