Fun Summer Music Homework Ideas

Many music students in Canada take the summer off from music lessons. The challenge as a music instructor is to give them just enough homework that 1 - they'll actually DO it and 2 - they think it's fun. One thing my students have heard from me time and time again is the importance of having several pieces "performance ready" at all times. You never know when a relative from Europe, Asia or the States is going to come visit. As soon as they see the piano in the house, they will undoubtedly ask for a performance. That's Assignment #1. My students and I explored this year is Pattern Play, developed by Forrest & Akiko Kinney. They have five books published, full of short patterns guaranteed to sound good. My students have learned 10 patterns from the first book. Jamming on their favorite patterns is Assignment #2. Assignment 2A is to maintain their technical exercises so that they don't start from scratch in September. My students in RCM and Conservatory Canada know that the further ahead they get with their technique for the upcoming year, the easier the school year will be. Assignment #3 - repertoire. Everyone has at least two songs they they will work on independently. Some will do well at completing their tasks. Not to worry, they have at least one "fun" piece that they've selected (or we negotiated), e.g. Super Mario, Zelda, Kingdom Hearts. They're excited to learn their fave games tunes, I get to chuckle because they've picked pieces that are more rhythmically and technically challenging than some of the pieces they tackled this year. Assignment #4 is a music mastery project. My students have selected one song from this current year that they will rest for most of the summer. They will re-learn it from scratch at the end of the summer. I hope that the break will give them a fresh perspective on the piece and help take the work to the next level. Assignment #5 is a fun ear training project - to pick out their favorite songs by ear. Intermediate and advanced students can also try to pick out the chords to the song. Assignment #6 is a listening project. I've given some students (the ones most inclined to do it) a list of composers and performers to check out on Youtube, everything from Bach to Dave Brubeck. They are to submit a report on each piece or performer they listen to. Naturally, they will earn their coveted Maestro Bucks for each report (to spend on prizes). One student plans to hang his listening list up in his room. He asked me to make the list in a large font so that it's the first thing he sees in the morning. Assignment #7 is probably one of the most fun projects. Some of my students are anime or manga otaku. I've tasked them with watching Nodame Cantabile and submitting reports on the music. This romance-comedy revolves around a girl who has a superb ear and a guy who is a musical technician. Each piece highlights at least one work (e.g. Brahms' Symphony no. 1). Yes, they will also earn Maestro Bucks for each report they submit. We've done audio/visual recordings of some of the trickier elements they will work on over the summer break. They also know that all they need to do is ask and I can quickly do up a "video demo" if they are stuck on something - within reason. Hopefully, some of these summer practice ideas appeal to students and teachers alike. For more summer music practice ideas, check out my Suite101.com article, "Fun Ways for Music Students to Stay in Shape in the Summer".