So you’re off to music camp, huh?
Well, you and your kids are off to music camp together. Or maybe, you’re accompanying them with the family as they go to classes and concerts on their own.
Whatever the case, you want to be ready for it. Gorgeous music, young prodigies, and long days, oh my!
A good music camp can take your child’s music performance to the next level, propelling them to a place they never dreamed they could go.
It can increase their confidence in their musical abilities and change the way they look at themselves.
Don’t be surprised if you come back with a completely different kid. One who feels the overwhelmingly powerful, breathtaking beauty of music itself – performing the same song with hundreds of children on stage, working through tricky musical pieces with fantastic teachers, and connecting with kids, very different from themselves.
Even writing about this brings back sentimental and strong memories for me as a kid. It’s a transformative experience you can only understand once you’ve been there.
Of course, that’s if you have the right attitude.
Here’s what you need to know before going to music camp. The making of friends, the inevitable (musical) messy parts, and all the emotions that come with facing down your own parental insecurities.
Get ready to pack your bags – we’re off!
Pack and Plan Well
First things, first – you’ve got to know what you need to take before you go.
Music Pieces and Music Recordings
Bring all the music your teacher tells you to bring to music camp. This will probably include the songs your child’s playing now, some past musical pieces, and a musical piece your child’s about to begin.
Bring those music recordings, too. Download them onto your computer or phone before you go to camp. Never stop listening to music!
Instrument and Accessories
Don’t forget their instrument. It would be a shame if you forgot this! Or if your child plays the piano, don’t forget to bring what they need to play the piano at camp.
Take what accessories you need. Whether that’s a stool for your child who plays the cello, a shoulder rest for the one who plays the violin, or a reed for the one who plays the clarinet. Every musician has a list of “I need this to play my instrument.”
And have backup accessories, too. Extra strings, extra reeds, or even a second bow. Most music camps will have an on-site accessory store, and instrument repair station. But it’s always nice to have some of your own things.
Bring dress up clothes. During music camp, there’s normally some sort of concert that will go on. Your child will probably be in the concert. Bring dress clothes that allow them to play their music well, and feel comfortable while they’re playing. No scratchy tights, uncomfortable shoes, or bulky jackets.
Bring play clothes. There will be a lot of music playing, and a lot of playing “playing” with other kids. Your child will get hot, sweaty, and gross by the end of the day. Hey – that’s camp. Take a jacket or sweater (both of you!) because concert halls can get very cold.
Of course, wherever you go, check the weather. It all depends on where you’re going and what the week has in store.
Bring something for entertainment
Books, games, etc. Whatever it is that you want to bring with you on this trip that keeps boredom at bay. If you’re bringing multiple people to music camp with your musical child, make sure everyone has something to do or occupy themselves with so music camp will be an enjoyable experience for everyone.
Record thoughts, tips, and ideas
Find some way to take jot down what you or your child are learning during camp.
Whether it’s in a journal, a notebook, a phone, tablet, or computer, find SOME way to write down your thoughts and ideas about what you’re learning together. And don’t be afraid to use video or audio recordings, either. You’ll want to go back to revisit these ideas again after camp.
None of these notes have to be readable to me, or anyone else. You don’t have to show these notes to anyone if you don’t want to. These notes are just for you. For your eyes, or ears, only.
Of course, you can’t record EVERYTHING SINGLE THING you learned. I guarantee you, if you wrote down everything you and your child learned through camp, you would come back home with a book.
Sometimes, you’ll want to sit back, watch, and digest the experience. Which brings me to the next tip…
Make friends, and connect with people you like
Camp is a time to meet people you wouldn’t ordinarily meet. These people might be from different parts of your city, state, or country. They may even be from all over the world!
Start up a conversation with someone sitting beside you. Encourage your kids to play with other kids.
Now, if you or your children are more extroverted, this advice might not apply to you so much. But if you or your child are on the shy side, remember that you’re not alone. Other parents and kids may feel overwhelmed, too.
In a sea of new people, it can be hard to feel comfortable right away. It’ll get easier, though. And by the end of music camp, you’ll find it’s even harder to say goodbye to the friends you’ve made together.
So carve out time to sit back, relax, and enjoy each other’s company. Plenty of parents and kids who go to music camp make lifelong friendships.
That’s the beauty of music – it binds us together in ways we’d never imagine it could.
Teachers will teach differently – don’t be afraid of different
They’re going to teach differently, explain concepts differently, and show your child how to play music differently. They may dress differently, speak differently, and act differently.
Don’t be afraid of different.
Come to music camp with an open mind. Ask questions. Connect with these teachers, and parents, who see the world a little differently than you do.
A music teacher at camp will try different things from your child’s home teacher. Try them! These new musical techniques may work for them. Some of them may not. Who knows? Just give it a go and practice them.
Which brings me to another point…
Set aside time to practice and drill skills now…not later!
Music camp isn’t a place for students to play the way they’ve been playing for months, or even years.
It’s a place where you’re consistently challenged. Your child might learn a different way of holding their instrument, or change the way they use their wrists when they change strings. They may try decorating their musical pieces differently, changing up the dynamics in a song they learned a few months ago.
It’s all fair game at music camp. Which means you’ve got to practice, practice, practice if you want to make really big leaps in your improvement.
If new techniques are going to take hold in a musician’s playing – if you’re really looking to help your child play their instrument in a better way – you’ve got to set some time aside to practice what their teacher is teaching them during camp, while camp is still going on.
Some techniques will be easier than others. For example, one teacher might introduce a new technique or concept to your child and by the end of the week, they’ll have mastered it. Hurrah! That’s awesome.
But some techniques will take weeks, maybe even months, to master. That’s ok – that’s life.
That doesn’t mean the technique isn’t worth practicing. That doesn’t mean your child isn’t talented. It means some skills take a longer time to master than others, and you have to practice those skills to be any good.
Don’t compare your kids to other kids
You will see kids who play better than your kids.
It’s a fact. There are kids who play their instrument better than your kids, and it will stun you how well they play a piece of music. They may even be half your child’s age.
This will happen. And when it does, try not to compare your kids to these kids.
It’ll be tempting, sure. You’ll go through the mental backflips of why they play so well, what their parents are doing that you’re not doing, and what secrets these teachers are sharing that yours won’t.
Instead of feeling disappointed, lousy, or even a little depressed, try feeling…inspired.
Talk to the parents of these students. Let them know how well their kids played. Get to know them. Befriend them.
The truth is there are a lot of reasons why kids play music ridiculously well. They have a teacher they love seeing every week, they practice every single day, they have a musical family, they listen to great music they enjoy, they have a lot of musical friends, they think playing music is a ton of fun…
The list goes on and on and on.
Seeing these kids play GORGEOUS pieces of music can tap into some major parenting insecurities. But being at music camp means you and your child get the opportunity to connect with other parents, teachers, and students and learn from them.
And guess what? They get to learn from you, too!
Chances are, there are things you understand that they haven’t figured out yet, and vice versa. Everyone learns something from everyone.
Oh, and one more thing: Beware gushing over the incredible musical success of another child too much.
It’s one thing to talk about how much a child practices and works hard to become successful, picking up tips that will help your kids. But it’s another thing to compare your child to another child in a way that embarrasses them in front of other kids, other parents, and shames them about their musical abilities (or lack thereof).
Push thyself, but know thy limits
Music camp exists for a few different reasons:
- To be a better musician
- To be with like-minded people (who also want to be better musicians)
- To push you past your comfort zone, in order to become that better musician
In the same way athletes condition their bodies at training camps with tough physical workouts and team-building exercises before their athletic season begins, musicians take this time to hone their skills, build better relationships with other musicians, and stretch themselves physically and mentally during camps.
This can be exhausting.
Stretching your child like this can take it out of them mentally, physically, and emotionally.
It’s normal to go thorough any, or all of these emotions while this happens: excitement, envy, frustration, anger, joy, sadness, happiness, amusement, shame, disappointment, love, surprise, pain, annoyance, nervousness, pleasure, exhaustion, fear, pride, and worry.
Don’t fight these emotions – take deep breaths and let them pass over you.
Going through these growing experiences can be tough – really tough. And it’s tough for parents, too. Let go, and live in the moment, as much as you can.
You’re a human. You’re not a robot.
When you’re hungry, eat food.
When you’re tired, rest.
Sounds simple, right?
But too many times we travel to new places, meet new people, and do new things with the idea that we are like robots.
We skip out on eating nourishing foods, and comprise our sleep schedules with late nights and early mornings. We think that with enough determination and will-power, we can go through anything.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking…“We’re going to get our money’s worth outta this camp! We can sleep when you go home!”
But we are human beings. When we get hungry, tired, or stressed, we become irritable. We aren’t ourselves. We’re the worst versions of ourselves, actually. And we’re no fun to be around.
We don’t process information well when we’re tired and hungry (because note – we are not robots), so we won’t play complicated music very well either.
All sorts of things can make us feel crappy when we’re traveling, especially while we challenge our minds and bodies during music camps like these. Yes, these events can be exciting and intense! But even good stress is stress, and you need to take care of yourself.
Above everything, take care of yourself. Whatever that is – mentally, physically, emotionally, care for yourself. Or else, everything else falls apart.
Sure, these camps can be intense. But ultimately, they’re designed to be a ton of fun for everyone. The memories you and your children make here will last a lifetime.
So enjoy your child, enjoy the music, and enjoy yourself. And remember that no one becomes a great musician without a lot of sour notes and tough practices along the way.
Savor these moments together, because they never last as long as you think.