Summer Festival Not in the Cards This Year? 10 Steps to Making This Your Most Epically Productive Summer Anyway.

Summer is here! (YESSS) If you’re off to learn/teach/perform at a summer festival or two, then you’re certainly in for a busy and inspiring 8 weeks.  But what if you’re not? Whether it’s due to financial considerations or because life is just requiring you to stay close to home this summer, all is not lost!  You can definitely turn the next 2 months into your most productive summer ever. Here are 10 things you can do this summer that will have you facing September 1st feeling like a boss.

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1. Learn a new set of repertoire

With a hectic concert schedule during the year, it’s almost impossible to learn new repertoire other than stealing a few minutes here and there from your practice sessions. You’ll often hear of soloists walking off stage from playing their concerto and heading to their dressing room to practice next week’s rep while the orchestra plays the 2nd half of the program!  Summer is the perfect time to work on pieces you want to add to next year’s repertoire list and brush up on some etudes and show pieces. If you have tried this before and found yourself procrastinating week after week, maybe you need some additional accountability built in.  You can form an online practice group with some friends or work with a practice coach, don’t let your need for outward accountability stand in your way this time.

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2. Give yourself an Etude Challenge

Want to go through all 40 Popper Etudes this summer? Or spend a week on each Piatti? You can read more about my thoughts on the benefits of Etudes here, but summer is a great time to geek out on them, and having a looming deadline will help you get your instrument out of its case every day.

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3. Set up some September outreach recitals

Contact your local library, retirement communities, or even a nearby prison and offer to play a program.  September is still pretty light in terms of concert schedules, and what a great feeling it will be to start the year off with a performance of your new repertoire under your belt, rather than that nagging feeling of being out of playing shape!

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4. Update your résumé and bio

Grab your calendar and write down everything you did last season.  Add it in, or swap things out as you see fit.  Is your font outdated? Does the style match your personality? Is your contact information correct? September often brings about auditions for local ensembles, and sub lists, and for you high school seniors, your dreaded College Applications.  Get your materials in order while you have the time this summer and you’ll be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

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5. Have new headshots done

Whether you hire a professional, or have a friend do them, summer is a great time to get a couple of new photos that you can use professionally.  The summer blooms and lush greenery make for fantastic outdoor backgrounds, and the golden hour light in the summer is A+.

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6. Organize your music collection

Some people like to do it by composer, others, by genre (Concerti, Sonatas, Solo works, etc) and there are some weirdos out there who do it by publisher…..what? Yep. I’ve seen it with my very own eyes. But whatever your method, take stock of what you have, see if anything needs some TLC.  Get a stamp with your name and email/website on it and make sure your name is on everything.  I’ll give you bonus points if you take it it all to a stationary shop and laminate the covers.

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7. Give your practice space a makeover

A properly set up practice space can give you a boost of motivation, a fresh perspective on things, and can make your life easier. Make sure you have the following:

  • A Rug–to keep the sound from being too “boomy” and to help with sound-proofing.
  • A mirror–to keep an eye on your technique (and taking mirror selfies, obviously)
  • An electric cup warmer—my most essential item (lol)
  • Plants
  • Nice artwork. A photo of your favorite player, or a sentimental picture from your youth. Puppies, kittens, rainbows, whatever inspires you.
  • A notebook. The repetitive nature of practicing (both playing a passage repetitively, and the fact that practicing itself is something we do every day) can put you into an almost meditative state. My best ideas, solutions to nagging problems, etc. usually come to me when I am practicing.  Keep a notebook handy so you can jot them down in the moment.
  • A cup/jar of sharpened pencils
  • An eraser
  • A metronome
  • Rosin/reeds/etc.
  • A good stand
  • A pencil/rosin/metronome holder that attaches to your stand

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8. Re-connect with some long-lost friends/mentors

Send a DM to someone you went to summer camp with. Email a former teacher or chamber music coach and let them know how your year went and what you’ve been up to.  Trust me, they’d LOVE to hear from you (hint hint)!  Call a colleague you haven’t seen in a while and make plans to meet up for a coffee or lunch.  Summer is a great time to catch up with people.  Schedules are more relaxed and people have more time to meet up. And you never know, you could end up brainstorming a fun project together for the upcoming season.

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9. Check out some outdoor concerts

I know the feeling.  If you finally have a day off from performing and teaching, the last thing you want to do is go to ANOTHER concert.  But it is vital that we rally our energy and do it anyway.  Summer concerts especially are fun, low-key, inspiring, and you’ll likely run into a bunch of people you haven’t seen in a while and it’ll turn into a big party.  Make some chicken salad, grab a big blanket and some bug spray and get out there.

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10. Relax!

Do some summer things!  Make a list of things that mean summer to you, and plan them into your days. Here’s mine:

  • Swim in the ocean (okay, I know….I live in Bermuda, and I go to the beach every week of the year…but you can only really SWIM in the summer). Also, I’ll be in Boston.
  • Eat lobster with LOTS of butter, preferably in Maine.
  • Eat homemade ice cream. Strawberry, cherry, peach, and blueberry are my faves in the summer months.
  • Go for a hike in the Blue Hills
  • Have a BBQ with my girlfriends and our families.
  • Make S’mores with my nephews in Chicago
  • Take our bikes on the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard and spend a day riding along the beach.