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Music Lessons Helps Stem The "Summer Slide"

Andrew Clark

May 15, 2015

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There have been several studies conducted in recent years concerning the phenomenon of the summer slide for students. Research and data show that students can slip behind more than two months in their educational development during summer vacation. When they return in the fall teachers are faced with students who may have regressed to where they were earlier the previous spring.

While it is agreed that the relaxation of summer is a welcome break from the grind of the scholastic year, we run the risk of letting our children backslide if we don’t stimulate their minds during the summertime.

Music can be a very valuable asset in this effort to keep our children engaged during the summer vacation. Summer offers us the opportunity to listen to, learn about, and perform music. Let’s discuss how each one of these can benefit the growing minds of our children.

  • Listening to music can be a very valuable experience for young minds. Even though the “Mozart Effect” that was so popular in the 1990’s has since been debunked, the importance of being exposed to music as a listener has many clear benefits. It can motivate a child to take up an instrument for the first time or go back to practicing the one they have already started. During the summertime many musical performances are presented in places that can be very educational and serve as a way to incorporate an awareness of culture and art. Taking your child to a concert at a museum presents the opportunity to enjoy many forms of art and culture in the same trip. A “listening list” for the summer could be associated with the ever-popular reading lists that schools assign. As a teacher I use the summer to challenge my students to listen to music that is of longer duration and has more complexity. I will pick a symphony, a concerto, an opera, or maybe an extended jazz composition/performance in the hopes of expanding their interests in other styles of music. It also helps to develop their attention span for songs that last longer than three minutes!
  • Learning about music has long been proven to benefit the mind at any age. Summertime is an excellent opportunity to gain new ground on an instrument. When I was in high school many of my friends traveled long distances to study with different teachers in an effort to gain an advantage at the auditions that occur during the school year. As a college student I used the summers to absorb the information I had gathered in the previous semesters. As a teacher I try to pick a project for each of my students to focus on. For beginners it might be getting through your first lesson book. Intermediate student s can be challenged to start learning their scales and chords. Advanced students will usually pick audition pieces to study. Sometimes I will push the advanced students to use some of their time out of the classroom to start a new instrument. Whatever you choose to do it is important to set a schedule and stick to it like you are on a team. Pick your goal and then set up the necessary practice times to make it happen. Even if it’s fifteen minutes every day - a little can go a long way.
  • Summer music camps are a very good way to continue to learn about music all summer long. Being immersed in a subject for a week will usually lead to a breakthrough moment for most students. I got involved with our RealJams Academy last year for the first time and I saw every student in the program walk away with new knowledge and more skills. It was a very gratifying experience for all.
  • Performing music teaches skills that practically any child can benefit from. Preschools always get the children to sing and play music together because it creates a unique bond and sense of teamwork. Many public schools are moving back to having band and chorus as required classes for all because of all the scientific proof behind music’s benefits. Self esteem can be built up by performing music. The chance to express oneself in a group can feel like hitting a home run in a baseball game! Summer is by far the busiest season for performing music and musicians at every level can find opportunities to enjoy being on stage.

Take this summer as your chance to make your life better with music. Chances are your child will go back to school this fall with a lot less summer slide - and quite possibly some newfound skills and appreciation for one of the oldest and most accessible art forms we have.