Going to a summer institute for the first time can be intimidating for both parents and students. Have you ever wondered what makes institute so special and important? Are you nervous about where to go and what to do? Will your child have a good time and be motivated? Will the money and time you have already invested be worthwhile?
As a violin teacher and a veteran institute mom, I can promise you that going to Institute is one of the most valuable things you can do for your budding musician. Spending a week focusing on the technical and musical aspects of their instrument will provide invaluable musical growth for your child. But more than that, being immersed in music-making and surrounded by like-minded peers, as well as a world-renowned faculty will provides motivation and excitement that can’t be replicated.
So are you looking for some insider “tips and tricks” to make your experience great? Are you wondering how to get the most out of Institute?
First, approach the Institute week with an open mind and encourage your student to be flexible and willing to try things that are new and different. Institute is a great opportunity to make new friends and have new experiences! You will have the privilege to work with many teachers, and one of the most valuable parts of institute is being able to learn from great teachers from all over the world. It’s very likely that they will have ideas that are different from your teacher at home does. Be flexible and open to trying things different ways all week long. Don’t automatically dismiss an idea just because it’s unlike anything you’ve ever done before. Go for it! Experiment, have fun with new ideas, approaches and perspectives. Often, a technique exercise or game introduced at Institute will help your child understand an idea or concept that they’ve been struggling with, just because it was presented in a new or unique way.
Second, do your best to commit to really being at Institute all day, every day. While it is difficult to drop everything and focus on music for an entire week, think of how that shows your child that their study of music is a priority! There are so many new things to learn and experience: this may be the first time your child plays in an orchestra or chamber group, the first time they have ever played their cello this much in a single day, the first time they’ve performed on a concert stage for hundreds of people, or the first time they’ve realized how exciting music can be. Soak it up, take lots of notes and lots of pictures. There are wonderful concerts at lunch time and every night. Attend as many of these as you can, not only are they geared towards our younger audience, but they are a polished, inspiring example of what we are all striving towards. There are parent seminars held throughout the day as well, check your concert guide for a schedule and take advantage of those classes to get some new ideas for you! My daughter and I look forward to Institute every year because of all the concentrated time we get to spend one on one with each other, and what a gift that is in our busy society!
Third, be willing to make new friends. Institute can be a wonderful time to connect with parents and students from many varied places, all of whom are working on the same goals, and experiencing the same joys and frustrations you do. Be willing to strike up a conversation, sit with someone new at lunch, or help a mom with a stroller up or down the stairs. We have so much in common, especially at Institute, and there is something so refreshing and enriching that comes when we share the joys and the
frustrations with people who are in the trenches with us. Also rewarding is watching your child make fast friends with other kids in their masterclass, chamber group, or enrichment class, and then seeing them squeal with delight when they get to renew that friendship year after year.
Finally, here are some practical tips. Bring a backpack to carry all your supplies in and stock it with healthy snacks and a water bottle or two. Kids work hard at Institute, and I’ve found that some simple, healthy snacks like grapes, string cheese or crackers go a long way towards keeping their energy and their attitude up. If your child is younger, you might want to consider a coloring book and crayons or some kind of quiet activity to keep their hands busy during the concerts. You might also want a book or some knitting for you while your child is busily occupied in a group class. Take advantage of the beautiful school grounds and go outside during a break or lunchtime to get some fresh air and burn off some energy. And finally, make sure both you and your student get plenty of sleep during the week. You are going to want to be well rested and fresh for a fantastic week of music making!
Going to a summer institute is one of the best things you can do for your young string player. You will experience amazing musical growth and new motivation in your child, and walk away with some new tools, tricks, and motivation for you as well. Enjoy the experience- it will change your life!
submitted by Stacy Smith