Musical Life Episode 5 – Summer Break: To Take or Not To Take?

Summer Break-To take or not to take. That certainly is the question.  If only that question had a simple answer.  The more I see of life, the more I see that a simple question rarely has a simple answer. There’s usually more nuance and a whole lot more detail and steps along the way. What are we asking in this simple question? On the surface we’re asking about taking a summer break from music lessons. More deeply, we’re hoping to understand routines, simplicity, longevity, musical skills, physical and emotional health, and the future of our society.

Routines help us keep track of all the activities. They help us remember to pack lunches, go to school and work, attend soccer practices, dance classes, and music lessons. Routines keep us grounded, but summer is the time we change our routine. Changing our routines are a great opportunity to clear our minds, recharge our bodies, and refresh our spirit. Summer requires so much change, that change becomes its own routine.  So often families decide to take a break from their usual habits to gather clarity and find simplicity. 

Simplicity is something we all learned after living through the pandemic. We discovered how to be without being constantly busy. We learned to appreciate the stillness, the quiet, the nothing. We developed our own guide to living slowly and purposefully. Now that life is for the most part back to normal, many people and families are reflecting upon their own simpler times and making a conscious effort to try to keep a simpler routine.

Summer. Long days, short nights, swimming, summer camp, grilling out, running around barefoot, watermelon, fireflies, camp fires, smores. The time of endless possibilities and spontaneity. It’s a time to rest, recharge, and recuperate. We can take a more leisurely lifestyle with long walks, relaxed dinners, impromptu gatherings, and ice cream sundaes.  Rest in the moment. Take in the sounds of crickets chirping, smell of fire pits burning, the sight of the sun setting or rising. Red, orange, purple skies. Summer rains. Rainbows. 
 
Music is for everyone. Everyone can learn to appreciate, understand, and perform music at any age. Some people have a natural disposition toward a good vocal tone, rhythmic ability, improvisational skill, etc, but anyone and everyone can learn to appreciate and create music. Music activates the whole brain, develops fine and gross motor skills, feeds the soul, nourishes the heart, and heals our emotions. Studying music has so many long term physical, mental, and emotional benefits, that I believe everyone should study an instrument thoroughly and deeply.  Imagine the heightened experience of summer when you continue your musical journey. Perhaps you find the rhythm in the chirping crickets, the symphony in the crackling campfire, the rock band in the flickering fireflies. 
 
Imagine coming home from a rough day at work. You are so frustrated, angry, and exhausted. What will instantly change your feeling and mood? Music! You can listen to soothing music to help calm your emotions, you can play your favorite piece to cheer you up after a breakup, and you can dance to music to energize your soul.
Music is a lifelong journey to deeply love, understand, and appreciate.  You don’t take a break from eating, sleeping, or breathing, just like music doesn’t take a break from healing your broken heart or nurturing an anxious spirit. As a musician, music educator, and parent, I want to support other families to my best ability. So, of course if families do need to take a break, I always support them. However, I hope to share my expertise in the field and hope that they can understand my why.
 
As a studio we offer a few breaks throughout the year for major holidays. Besides those scheduled breaks, we don’t recommend taking a break from music. Music is more than just an activity. It is an education. It is a journey. Music is our future. 
 
What if a student breaks an arm and he can’t play. That’s okay! You have two arms, you have ears, eyes, emotions, a body, and a brain. One hand is not all that music is. Musical study incorporates so many subjects: theory, ear-training, sight-reading, steady beat, rhythm, technique, tone, harmony, melody, articulation, dynamics, and more. A broken arm provides a perfect opportunity to study our other skills more deeply and intensely.  The bones will heal, but a long break might provide a loss of momentum. We don’t want to lose momentum. A long break from music will provide a tremendous loss of skill in their musical journey. 
 
What if a student takes a 2 month break from lessons? He/she returns in the fall with this memory of where he/she was prior to the break. Then the student becomes frustrated because of the lack of skill and ability. It’s difficult to be patient getting back into it, because they were just there, and now they’re not. So often a break from lessons inevitably ends in a return for a few weeks followed by quitting for good. Of course some people have different preferences than others. Some love soccer, some love art, others enjoy saxophone, more still enjoy playing piano, but prefer listening to violin. We all have our preferences. However, I do believe that everyone can learn to play and love music. It may be a different instrument or style, but there is a possibility for everyone in society to love music. A long break could turn that future musician into a frustrated human that gives up on music.
 
We are your guide to music education. We are your music foundation for life. Building a strong foundation in music can guide our people toward a better future, a better society, and a better life.  Instead of taking that break from lessons, keep your routine. Continue your music education through the summer. Deepen your understanding of rhythm, melody, harmony, theory, history, and more. Connect your heart to love and healing. Continue music study throughout the year so you don’t lose momentum, but also so you can be the best human you can be. With more artists and musicians in the world you will have the opportunity to directly affect the future of our society together.  Imagine a world filled with musicians. Of course, we still need engineers, lawyers, doctors, teachers, and scientists, but imagine that all of them were also musicians. Imagine anyone that had a rough day turned on music to heal their emotions before getting in a car and honking angrily all the way home at innocent bystanders. Imagine a world where a troubled teen focusses on playing guitar to express themselves instead of other dangerous choices. What if that engineer turned to music to clear her mind when troubled with a difficult problem to solve? So many solutions can be found in music. Instead of turning away from music, we need to lean into music.

Tip for a Musical Life:
This summer, choose more music. Attend live performances including picnic at the pops, PB&J Jazz at the topiary garden, a music themed summer camp, and lessons. Get creative and ask your teacher to study pop or movie music for the summer. 
 
Closing Statement: 
Breaks are needed. Changes in routine are a habit. Developing and pursuing a simpler life is admirable. However, music is life. Music never ends. Music is there for you no matter what. Continue music study throughout your summer break, your heart break, and your arm break. Don’t lose your momentum, develop your skills, soften your emotions.