Last Minute Planning in a Pandemic Year

As we slowly creep into a new normal, music educators still seek performance options for young musicians.    

Never fear!  There’s still time!

Give us a call – With our experience and ideas, you can plan an outstanding experience that includes all the essentials – learning, fun, and performance!  After all, we’ve been developing terrific resources for 27 years.  A great festival trip to your choice destination is just a phone call away.

How about five tips to get you started?

  1.  What will your school administration allow? It’s an ever-evolving set of guidelines but by doing a little homework up front you’ll increase the likelihood of making a festival trip happen.  Start with this first step.
  2.  Be flexible.  You couldn’t start planning early.  So, give us a range of dates that will work in your schedule.  Friday festival dates fill up quickly, however we offer many Saturday morning options.  Have an open mind and let’s get started!
  3. Explore alternate activities.  Maybe this is the year to explore different activities because of social distancing. 
    For instance, most theme parks include outdoor rides, shows, and dining. Miniature golfing, going to a sporting event, or head to the beach for a group picnic. Enjoying a group meal outdoors might be just the thing to develop teamwork in your group.   Let’s team up to find the right activity for your group given the world in which we now inhabit.
  4. Don’t delay decision making.  Because time is not on your side, be prepared to make quick decisions so you don’t lose out. Making speedy decisions may not be in your comfort zone but collecting everyone’s opinions at this date may impede the possibility of making a festival trip happen.
  5. Explore safety protocols and concerns.  This may be the number one aspect that makes a trip sound more comfortable to administration and parents.  We can help you with your specific concerns.
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Best way to stay up on the news?  Sign up for our e-newsletter or include us in your Facebook posts.

You might be getting a late start, but you can still WOW your students with a fantastic and rewarding trip this year.  We’re only an email or phone call away and invite you contact us to get started. 

1-888-76-FORUM

www.forummusicfestivals.com

Making Practice Fun!

Learning any new skill is a challenge. Doing it in front of your friends and classmates is extra-challenging. The school music teacher has the work cut out for them.

Experienced music teachers know the frustration of unpracticed students in their ensembles. Encouraging at-home practice can be problematic since the teacher is unfamiliar with the student’s home support, other obligations (academics, chores, jobs), and their physical set up.

When I was a young piano student, my wonderful mother nagged me to practice. The day before my weekly lesson, though, filled me with dread as I was sure I hadn’t practiced enough to suit my teacher. I was learning to play the piano – what I wasn’t learning was how to practice for improvement.

When my own daughter started the flute with her band, she had a delightful teacher who approached practice differently from my own childhood experience. Key word here … FOCUS. Her teacher concentrated on improving specialized qualities of playing – intonation for a while. Then rhythm. On and on. But even more, she shared specific ideas for improvement. And she recognized that the whole picture had to include fun.

From these experiences and from adjudicator feedback, I share a couple of tips to motivate your students to practice:

Explain the difference between practice and rehearsal.

When you play a sport, you go to practice, then to the game and that’s it. Music study requires a bit more than just playing with the ensemble. Preparing for the rehearsal can be difficult for young musicians to grasp.

Choice

Did each student select their own instrument? Is he/she comfortable with sticking with that choice? Since most directors face gaps in instrumentation, how about a “viola” day or “tuba” day where each student tries out an instrument other than his or her own? If the student realizes that he/she prefers a different instrument, it may improve the practice.

Talk it up.

Talk about practice in class every day. Assume that each student is practicing at home. (Yes, we realize this isn’t the case.)  Without pressure, ask students where and when they practice and if they will share practice tips to their fellow student musicians. Make it sound like everyone is doing it.

Sidestep frustration.

Music students are easily discouraged with their results. Be encouraging, but honest. It takes a long time to learn an instrument, just like math builds on earlier concepts and baseball starts with T-ball. Sure, gifted, and talented student musicians exist, but doesn’t everyone need to feel that they are making progress?

Set personal practice goals.

Ask students to write down a realistic musical goal for the week. For example, if a difficult passage is tripping up the student suggest they practice it ten times slowly in a row without making a mistake. If they make a mistake, start over. Most of us love playing or singing the parts that we do well while avoiding the tough parts. (I speak this from experience.)  Key word here is REALISTIC. A fine line exists between achieving realistic outcomes and making practice too discouraging to even begin.

Set up a custom practice schedule.

In class, have students write down a schedule that suits their life and timelines. Ideas to share…

  • Schedule a “practice-free” day every week. Choose your own practice-free day. Or set the practice-free day around other obligations. This offers a needed break AND promotes time management skills.
  • Break up the practice time. Instead of a 30-minute session (or more), break the time into smaller increments. Using a timer is simple and helpful.
  • Change the practice routine. Is right after school the best time? Or does getting up 15 minutes earlier to practice work better? How about after dinner when Mom and Dad can listen? So individual, but the keyword here is CONTROL. And the student has it.

Change the practice location.

Suggest they take their instrument to the bathroom, to the dining room, outside, or to the park. Changing things up often garners a new perspective on things.

Give students real-life tips for practice.

Suggestions could include…

  • Singing the part to themselves.
  • Playing a couple of measures, then once that unit is mastered, add a measure.
  • Pencil in trouble spots in class to concentrate on them at home.
  • Playing with a friend. Who in your ensemble who could practice with you? Join in on a joint practice session. Sociability during practice – what fun!
  • Offering “bonus” sheet music as a reward for learning ensemble music. It develops interest and rewards good practice.

A friendly competition as a great musical motivator.

  • 30-day Practice Tournament – Who can log the most practice in a 30-day period? (Yes, based on the honor system and the obvious results.)
  • Create a “streak” contest – who practiced the most days in a row?
  • Use text messages or classroom signs to reward musical accomplishments. (“Shout out to the clarinets for a great sectional!”) OR (“Hats off to Cindy who practiced 7 days in a row”)
  • Beat the teacher. Who can practice more than the teacher? The winning student teaches the class for a day.
  • Plan a celebration when all students have learned a piece of music.
  • Post a chart of Practice Champs. (Again, honor system and results)

Include performance opportunities.

Practicing without performing is monotonous. Plan performances throughout the school year. At Forum Festivals, we see the results from student engagement. Not every ensemble is world class, but every student is excited to show their stuff and wants to hear other groups. Using performance as a motivator gives students a reason to practice.

As the old joke says, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” (or fill in the venue). Practice, practice, practice!

Be positive about practice and have FUN making music.

You are teaching far more than music by developing life skills through music:  cooperation, civility, teamwork, and goal setting! At Forum Music Festivals, we celebrate music educators and music students at all levels and abilities! Take pride in your students’ accomplishments this year – remote learning hasn’t been easy for anyone, and your students hung in there!

We can’t wait to see you at a festival!

Becky Norman – Forum Music Festivals

Just a Note About Appreciation

Well, 2020 is over and there’s probably no one on Planet Earth that wants to re-visit that year.  As we dust off those cobwebs, I can’t help but start 2021 with a spark of hope and a bucketful of admiration.

Although we missed you in 2020, there’s no doubt that music teachers have really stepped up to the plate to show grace, flexibility, and creativity for their students.  Pretty sure that none of you went to college or conservatory to learn how to teach via Zoom or to teach a socially distant performance group.  As a business that supports music education, we admire all of you out there who are making music happen in your students’ homes and schools.  You are heroes!

Essential workers – how familiar that term is to us now.  Having spent months in quarantine depending on those who make our society plug along, let’s give a round of applause to those who fall under that huge umbrella of work deemed essential.  Of course, this includes health care, but it also includes those in retail grocery chains, agriculture, childcare, plumbers, mechanics, transportation, first responders, and the list goes on and on.  Can we ever say thank you enough to those who keep us going? 

Finally, we must admit that we all have a much more expanded appreciation for time – time by ourselves, time with those we love, and time spent discovering new talents and re-visiting old interests.  For music teachers (and those of us in that world), that can also mean the simple pleasure of practicing and enjoying music.  We look forward to the time when we can welcome you and your wonderful students back to a Forum Festival to enjoy, support, and encourage young musicians.