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"Ins and Outs" of Music Practice: Spring 2010 Survey Results (Part 2)

by Valentina Jotovic on May 11, 2010
In Part 1 of this two-part blog article, we presented an overview of the results of our Spring 2010 Survey, in which Hunterdon Academy of the Arts received very high marks from its students and their parents. Although the Survey rated HAA "far better than other music schools," it also revealed a couple of concerns. Among these, a few respondents wondered why this past year we have asked our students to keep track of their daily and weekly practice sessions, and some called for more clarification of the "ins and outs" of music practice.

In previous years, at least one parent a week would visit our office to talk about

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 the difficulties their child experiences with practicing. "My child wants to quit"; "my child hates guitar [piano, flute., etc]"; "I can't fight with him/her about practicing anymore"; "he is not progressing quickly enough" were just a few of the complaints we kept hearing. Some parents also asked us directly for guidance on how to help their child prosper in music lessons. After brain-storming with both faculty and parents, we concluded that for many students to have a more rewarding experience in their lessons, we as teachers needed to help them set realistic goals and develop a systematic practice routine to reach these goals. As an important part of this process, we asked students to keep a detailed account of their practice efforts in their "Practice Record Book," which we handed out for free to each lesson student at the beginning of the school year.

As professional musicians and music educators, we are passionate about making music. But truth be told, even for us there are times when we have to supplement our passion and enthusiasm for music with a healthy dose of discipline in order to progress. It is not unlike exercising or being on a healthy diet: we love the process especially when we see results, but it can be hard work to stick with it until we have reached that magical number on the scale. But how, exactly, to stay disciplined? Fitness experts agree that keeping a "food diary" (where you log in everything you eat) will dramatically increase your chances for success. Too much work? Maybe, but the "food diary" produces tangible results, and makes you account for that giant piece of chocolate cake you ate but somehow tried to forget about.

The "food diary" is quite similar in purpose to the "Practice Record Book" we introduced last year, which asks students to log in their practice days and times. The booklet helps students stay on track in pursuing their goals, by documenting step by step their efforts and accomplishments along the way. It teaches them that more often than not, frustration in a music lesson has nothing to do with the instrument itself but mostly with the effort they have put into learning it. For parents, understanding the results of their child's music lessons is also a financial issue: without some weekly practicing, their child will not be able to move forward in her next lesson. This means that you are paying for essentially the same lesson twice. Still think logging in practice times is a waste of time?

Over the past year, we've kept a close eye on student progress, and we're happy to say that using the "Practice Record Book" has yielded some amazing results! Have you ever seen the sparkle in a child's eye when she performs on stage, accomplishing, almost miraculously, something she never thought she could do? Well, we're confident that you'll see a lot of these sparkles at our year-end recitals this coming Saturday, May 15, at 1 PM, 3 PM, and 5 PM at Stanton Reformed Church (1 Stanton Mountain Road, Stanton, NJ 08885)

Come join us; admission if free! 

Get directions to Stanton Reformed church HERE.


Topics: private lessons, practicing a musical instrument, private music lessons

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