Summer Camp!

The Washington area is currently bracing for its first winter storm 2016. What better time to start considering summer music programs for your student?? I'm a huge proponent of summer music camps, especially sleep-away programs. They are wonderful way for students to experience and immerse themselves in new music in a beautiful setting, meet other like-minded young musicians, and study with new teachers and conductors. Right now is the time for students to send off applications and audition recordings! I've done a bit of research and here are some great programs:

  1. Brevard Music Festival (for high school age students)
  2. Sewanee Music Festival (ages 12 and up)
  3. Killington Music Festival (ages 12 and up)
  4.  Camp Encore/Coda (grades 3 through 11)

This is just a tiny sampling of some of the wonderful summer programs. As an alumna of two of the programs above, I still cherish the memories and the invaluable musical experiences from these programs.

Squeezing in Practice Time

Especially at this busy season, practice time can sometimes fall by the wayside. Playing the violin involves very intricate muscle movements that must be maintained and practiced on a daily basis. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts in violin practice, but here are some tips to get you or your child into the practice groove. 1) Get into a routine. Schedule practice time for yourself or your child at the same time every day.

2) If necessary, break it up: Spend 25 minutes on scales and/or etudes in the morning, 25 minutes on your solo piece at some point in the afternoon and evening. (The actual amount of practice time depends on the playing level of the student.)

3) Be realistic - give yourself a day off. Try to practice 6 out of the 7 days of the week.  I know that some students won't be able to practice every single day. However, it's crucial to maintain regularity in the practice schedule. Practicing 30 minutes on a daily basis will be much more productive than "cramming" the day before your lesson or a big performance.

4) Use a practice chart to record daily and weekly practice. And be honest! :) This will help you and your teacher know how you are progressing. If necessary, for younger students, parents can work with the teacher to arrange rewards for diligent practice.

'Tis the season

..for giving and getting gifts! Here are some of my favorite gift ideas for the string player in your life: 1) New strings!

Seems a little dull, but the right set of strings can really make a difference. The wintry weather can be especially hard on string instruments, causing strings to break more frequently. Why not make a little upgrade to those strings? My faves are Evah Pirazzi.

2) A new metronome

Honestly, all musicians should have one of these anyway. But if not, try this one. Reasonably priced, and it does the job. I prefer the "clicking" metronome to the "beeping" ones -- the beeps can sometimes be inaudible over the sound of the violin!

3) "Fun" music.

Sometimes my students become bored of their lesson materials. Gasp! Pop or fiddle music can help keep students motivated and interested in learning the violin. Try searching for sheet music from their favorite movie or band.

4) A fancy case

Students tend to love the rectangular cases. I've always been a fan of Bobelock cases. They're beautiful and sturdy. As a word of advice, I would stay away from anything over 7 lbs., as it can become quite heavy to carry around. Which leads me to my favorite recommendation...

5) A padded case strap

If you or your student have to carry a violin around a lot, this Case Sling neoprene shoulder strap somehow makes it feel much, much lighter. The strap has a layer of gel-like padding and just a bit of stretch to it. I've had mine for several years and I'm not sure how I managed without it! It makes carrying the violin so much more comfy.

I know, I plug Shar Music so much you'd think I get a commission for it. I don't!

Top 5 Favorite Summer Music Programs

As a student, I was personally quite fortunate to attend some amazing summer music camps. They spanned from small-scale, rustic operations to international festivals, and all of them offered unforgettable musical and social experiences. I recommend these whole-heartedly to my students as a means of improving technique, expanding musical knowledge, and meeting other like-minded folks. They can become expensive (thanks Mom and Dad!), so some programs offer financial aid or work-study programs – they are well worth the cost! The following are five of my favorite programs – including some that have received rave reviews from some of my colleagues. 5. Shenandoah Performing Arts Camp, Winchester, Virginia

4. Point CounterPoint Chamber Music Camp, Leicester, Vermont

3. Killington Music Festival, Killington, Vermont

2. Boston University Tanglewood Institute, Boston, Massachusetts

1. Brevard Music Festival, Brevard, North Carolina