Updated: Aug 19, 2020
To go along with my latest video, I have compiled a list of three of my top tips (plus a bonus tip!) for all of you young, aspiring musicians out there.
1. Create A Practice Plan
Although "going back to school" looks a little different this year, it is still important to find a routine. It's likely you'll have several things to juggle on top of classes and homework, so penciling in a set amount of time each day for practicing your instrument is of the utmost importance so you can have a smooth transition into the new rhythm of the school year while improving your skill level every day.
2. Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone
Taking risks is something we all have to do in order to grow, and music is no exception. If you have opportunities to audition or perform for youth orchestras, solos, All-State, or anything else that comes up, take them! It will be scary at first, but ultimately you will be proud of yourself for being brave enough to step outside of your comfort zone. Even if you make a couple of mistakes, you will certainly gain valuable performance experience. You will also build the confidence to take similar opportunities in the future, and perform even better the next time. The saying "practice makes perfect" applies to performing in front of people, too. So, do the things that scare you!
3. Play Outside of School Often
I can't stress enough the importance of playing outside of orchestra class. Going to workshops and music camps are often some of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have, and the ones that will push you to become the best you can be on your instrument. Oftentimes simply getting together with your friends and sight-reading music or jamming (even if it's just over Zoom right now), will allow you to be in new situations that will both inspire and force you to be creative. Some of my most treasured memories are times spent at string camps, orchestra festivals, and playing fiddle tunes with my friends. These were the times where I also saw myself noticeably improve as a violinist the most. If you are in your school's orchestra and the only time you touch your instrument is during orchestra class, you will not be allowing yourself to create these opportunities for yourself, and your growth will be stunted as a result.
Going along these same lines, I would also highly encourage you to go and listen to as much live music as you can (once it is safe to do so, of course). Oftentimes symphonies offer discounted ticket prices for students, so if finances are an issue, this is definitely something to consider. When I was in high school, I was lucky enough to be able to volunteer at my town's local professional orchestra, and during that time I was able to see the concerts for free. There are usually opportunities like this available, you might just have to ask around a bit to find out!
BONUS TIP: Set Goals
Setting goals is the only way you will be able to really track your progress. Not to sound like your mom, but how will you know that you're improving if you don't have any idea of what you're working toward? It's like having measuring tape without anything on the other end of it to measure, or driving without a set destination. Setting goals allows you to have a vision of where you want to be in a certain amount of time, and it gives you something attainable to chip away at every day. The start of a new school year is the perfect time to set goals, because you already have the next nine months or so scheduled out, and how you choose to divide that time is dependent on what you're hoping to achieve within a timeframe. Maybe you want to make it into the first violin section by Spring, win the upcoming concerto competition, or make it into the All-State orchestra. You have your dream, now make it a goal! That way, you have something tangible to work toward. Goals can also serve as great motivation for when you're not feeling like practicing. Simply envision yourself in the first violin section... performing with the orchestra after winning the concerto competition... playing in the All-State orchestra... then, think of where you're at currently, and what you still need to do in order to get to that point. Trust me, it'll be worth it in the end.
I hope you found these tips helpful, and I wish you the best of luck with heading into this school year!