The summer months can bring challenges for music teachers wishing to continue music lessons to their students. Many families travel during the summer, as long anticipated and saved-for vacations finally arrive. Vacations naturally interrupt the regularity of weekly lessons. With some students, even those not going away on vacation, the mere arrival of summer months and the break from formal schooling motivate them to suspend their musical studies until fall and school resume. For these students, an added reason for continuing music lessons can help.
For my top students, I have found that beginning preparation of next fall’s audition solo pieces is a good use of summer music lessons, and one that students who want to do well at those additions embrace. The fact is, many students spend the summer months preparing all-state and all-county festival audition pieces, so to be competitive, it is important for my students to do the same. With more time to practice without the demands of school and school extra curricular activities, summer can be a hugely productive time for this.
Another good use of the summer months is to offer chamber ensembles. During the school year, most of my students play in their school band or orchestra, but rarely play in chamber groups. Also, while some of my students go to school together, many don’t know each other. Putting all or most of my students together in chamber groups is a great way for them to make new friends, discover the joy of playing chamber music, and keep them playing throughout the summer. Because these are ensembles, and multiple students are paying me for the same block of time, I can charge a lower fee for participation in these groups than I charge for private lessons. Sometimes, we find we enjoy an ensemble enough to keep it going into the next school year. I have led both clarinet and saxophone choirs at different points in my career. These choirs afford the opportunity for 6-8 students to participate in each ensemble. Toward the end of the summer, we have a chamber music concert for parents and friends. One year, I even held the concert outside in my back yard.
For students who will be taking private lessons over the summer, I like to make a schedule at the start of the summer. I have parents and students commit to specific dates, pay for all of them in advance, and encourage them to have a lesson at least twice a month during July and August. If there is a week when most of them will be away, I simply cancel all lessons and take that week off. It also doesn’t hurt to send a reminder a day or two before each summer lesson. It’s easy to forget these appointments amid other summer fun. This has been my approach to summer music teaching.