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  • Writer's pictureCraig Birchfield

How to keep kids practicing through the summer

The sun is out and the clouds are gone. Hooray! This is the summertime creed of Oregon kids who have to run between raindrops for most of the winter. With school out and kids out and about it is sometimes hard to generate enthusiasm for strings practice. Here are some tips to beat the summertime practice blues.

1)Try a carrot. Okay, bribery can seem a bit graceless but a little reward goes a long way and a certain flying nanny I remember said a spoonful of sugar can expedite most matters. A well thought out reward or two can help pave the way when mixed with other inducements. A new video game. Favorite meal or some trendy threads for learning few new pieces. Use your imagination.

2)Practice early. If you are morning people (shudder) then hitting it hard in the AM and getting it out of the way could be just the answer. Remember, no school to get ready for in the morning.

3)First things first. If there is some golden activity that your kids long for then make it a house rule that you play before you play – music that is. Video games, social media, baseball – whatever – comes after practice.

4)Goals and awards. A little celebration of achievements can make kids feel good about their progress. Finishing a method book, how fast can they learn a new song or even just practicing every day for a week might earn a trip to the pizza parlor or maybe just an official looking achievement form printed off the computer.

5)Inspire them. When was the last time you took your child to a concert with strings? How about a children’s arts festival or fair where they can be a part of an impromptu orchestra? Master classes are an option for older more advanced students. You could proactively find music videos together – there are some great classical music videos on YouTube. Don’t overlook Celtic, Bluegrass, or violin jazz concerts or videos. It’s been said that Lindsey Sterling (the dancing violinist) and the Piano Guys (Cellist) have are this generation’s greatest Pied Pipers for string music and they have lots of videos online.

6)Special music. See if your child would like to learn a song to celebrate special occasion or event. Birthdays, anniversaries or just a planned visit with an uncle, aunt or grandparent can be the impetus for learning a new song.

7)Youth Orchestras. Not every Portlander is aware that we have two of the finest youth orchestras in the country right her in our town: the Portland Youth Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Youth Symphony. PYP will take auditions from string players from 7 years old. Here are the PYP audition requirements: Here are the MYS audition requirements. If they are not ready to audition take them to a concert to see what the kids are doing!

8)Parents too. Parents can have a huge impact on the success of their young musicians. Get involved in your child’s progress. Help your child set realistic but still challenging goals. Let them know that you believe in them. Don’t expect that they are probably going to loose interest and fall away. That’s setting them up for failure. Build a success mentality in them.

Keep Practicing,

Craig Birchfield Owner Allegro Violin and Music

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