We all realize the importance of consistent practice, so it's hard to think that some students will go home for the summer and not play their instruments for a couple of months....especially after all of the hard work they did throughout the school year. A few days ago, I was looking out my window while eating breakfast and I noticed my blossoming Japanese snowball bush. It's amazing how large the blossoms grow in a short amount of time. I was thinking about how much my students had blossomed this year...I am so proud of their performances and accomplishments.
I cut a few branches off my bush and took them to school to show my students and tell my students how much they have progressed. It only took an hour for the flowers on my branches to begin to wilt. It made the perfect object lesson. After pointing out to students their progress, we talked about how the flowers wilt so soon after being separated from the tree. The same goes for practice over the summer...when you cut it off and don't get the nourishment of frequent practice, skill and ability begin to wilt. Talents need nourishment. Students took this message to heart and many committed to continue working over the summer. I made sure to have lists of private teachers available.
I have done a 2 week summer orchestra program in the past, but it is hard to find 2 consecutive weeks where students can commit to attend a daily activity. Now, I keep summer activities simple and no-stress for me and my students. I choose 3 days (each about 2 weeks apart) and hold a 'play-in.' For the last few days of playing in class, I passed out new exciting music and we worked on it a little bit so students could hear how it sounds and continue to work on it when school is out. Students are then invited to come on any or all of the selected summer dates to meet in my classroom and play the music. The cost is free, it doesn't take a lot of time, and students really like to come. Last summer, I had great attendance and students requested that I keep doing the play-ins as a summer activity.