Back to School Checklist

I may be in the minority here, but I always look forward to the unofficial tail end of summer and beginning of fall. Maybe it's all those years when mid-August meant preparing to go back to school and beginning the adventure of a new year. Maybe it's that I'm excited to finally get a break from Mid-Atlantic heat! Either way, the  quiet arrival of cooler evenings has me looking forward to fall teaching and music-making.

Whether you spent your summer working on new techniques or taking a breather for some perspective, it's time to start getting ready for a whole new season of music. Here's  a few pointers to get you headed in the right direction.

 Image via PixaBay.

Image via PixaBay.

  1. Schedule an instrument check-up.
    Book an appointment with your friendly local woodwind repair technician. When your instrument is in good working order, the instrument can perform as it was designed to. It works with you to create music, not against you. It's critical to have your instrument serviced at regular intervals, no matter whether you're playing on your first plastic Yamaha clarinet or your third custom grenadilla Buffet. Pianists, check your records for the last time your instrument was serviced. If it needs a tuning, this is a great time to book it. No sense in playing Brahms out of tune! 
     
  2. Stock up on supplies.
    The first thing that comes to mind here is reeds for clarinets and saxophones. How many do you currently have in rotation? How old are they? Do you need to diversify what strengths you have? If you're not sure, this is a great time to have that conversation with your teacher. Flute players, you're a little bit luckier than your other woodwind colleagues here (no reeds!), but you still have some supplies to inventory along with them. Everyone needs to have cleaning swabs, batteries for metronomes/tuners, key cleaning papers, and the all important stash of pencils.
     
  3. Locate and organize method books and repertoire.
    This is a small task that can give you a big leg up. It's easy for books to get misplaced when they aren't being used on a regular basis, so if you didn't practice much this summer, it's important to locate materials that you know you'll be using this fall. If you already know where they are, excellent! It's on to the second part: organize these books, sheets, and electronic files in a way that helps you find them quickly when they are needed. 
     
  4. Brainstorm musical goals.
    You've done the less creative aspects of preparation, now get to the good stuff! On your own or with your teacher--or ideally, with your teacher after you've done some thinking on your own--write down what you want to accomplish this year. Maybe it's something technical, like working on a powerful bottom register on flute or keeping your altissimo notes in tune on clarinet. Maybe there's a piece you want to learn, either for your own enjoyment or a competition. Maybe your phrasing needs work, and you want to experiment more with interpretation. Some of these are big goals; don't be afraid to break them down into more manageable chunks.
     
  5. Schedule lessons.
    Don't forget to book your fall lesson times! Even if you have access to an excellent band or orchestra program, a private teacher can help you grow musically and refine technique in ways that complement your ensemble playing. And I haven't forgotten you, piano students: with fewer opportunities to play in school, you especially can benefit from time at the bench with your teacher to guide you.