“So, what are you doing this summer?” Thoughts of a road trip and sandy beaches spring to mind; but after the initial vacation, what of the discipline of a daily routine? For students, having a couple of months off from a school schedule can be a great mental relief.
It can also allow for a shift in educational focus. The right course of study in the summer can be very productive and even inspiring to students. To wit, many musicians have expressed happiness at having more time to practice due to the lessening of other extracurricular activities and academic responsibilities. For students who have been taking lessons for several years, they usually feel a difference between taking and not taking piano lessons in the summer. When Fall comes around, they may feel as if their fingers have become stiffer, or that it takes longer to learn a new piece. Our brain and muscles would appreciate the consistency, and need the continued musical workout! Additionally, summer lessons keep students' momentum going, so when Fall comes, it will not be a struggle to insert practicing back into the daily routine.
True, summer music lessons may not be for everyone; however, many parents are glad to have a consistent “project” for their children to work on in between video game marathons! In my experience as a teacher, determining summer lessons is based on factors such as family travel plans, and particular summer goals.
When students tell me of their planned travel, I gladly encourage them to enjoy it to the fullest, as “family comes first”. When students tell me they'd like to use the summer to achieve a learning goal (i.e, learning a pop song they really love on the piano), I gladly help them achieve it.
It may be of concern that summer lessons might imply a more relaxed standard of musicianship. On the contrary, the summer weeks and months are an opportunity to delve more deeply into music and its enjoyment - and central to this is the repertoire selected for summer study.
If a student is familiar with going through a lesson book series, they may desire continuity and hope to continue with similar music. Some chose this, though many hope to have a break from the standard books and focus on different genres of interest to them. Some examples include jazz (the Martha Mier series are excellent, as well as simpler arrangements of Scott Joplin rags), film music (John Williams, the Marvel movie themes, Disney, et. al.), and pop music (fill in the blank here!). If there is one piece I would unequivocally recommend, it would be an easy version of Henry Mancini’s The Pink Panther theme. Every student I’ve brought this up to has loved it.
One small recommendation to parents: if a student has just returned from vacation, start with reviewing and enjoying a piece studied previously - perhaps resume lessons by playing a piece they know well (such as a recital song). It will boost their confidence and encourage them to be open to the new music.
Happy inspiring and happy growing!
Fun pieces to consider during the summer session: