Hawaii Youth Symphony

The Uplifting Impacts of Summer Learning

School’s out for the summer! As the end of the school year approaches, parents and guardians are always on the lookout for engaging activities to keep their kids busy and enriched during the break. Summer activities can make a huge difference for young children and adolescents alike, and that’s why we make music year-round! Read on to learn about the impact of summer activities on youth development.

Preventing Learning Loss

There is a phenomenon sometimes known as summer slide, where students experience academic and social setbacks over the summer that may have long-term impacts on their learning and development. Just like math or reading, playing an instrument isn’t “just like riding a bike!” 

Without daily or weekly music classes that are provided through the school year, it can be easy to regress over the break. Then, when you return in the fall, you’re feeling rusty and behind. Perhaps you don’t earn the seat assignment you were hoping for, or lose interest in playing. As music educators, we hate to see this happen to our students! 

A summer music program keeps students moving forward with music and engages their brains, supporting cognitive and academic development.

Pacific Music Institute summer viola faculty member Zoë Martin-Doike explains that “you learn so many different skills through music. Discipline is such a big one because we really have to practice deliberately to be able to even make a good sound on the instrument,” adding that “I also love that music engages both sides of the brain. So, it really develops your artistic side, but also a lot of your analytical skills and problem solving.”

A summer music program provides a classroom-like setting, but more fun, keeping students engaged and interested in learning over the summer.

Providing Structure With Daily Instruction

Summer activities of any kind can be extremely effective in combating summer boredom and keeping teens out of trouble. Even if it’s only for a few hours a day, having some structure in their summer schedules helps students stay focused.

In music specifically, it’s important for students to play with others and work with a qualified mentor. Self-practice over the summer is great, but can also lead to bad habits. A Hawaii Youth Symphony flutist said that the one piece of advice she had for music students is to find a good teacher: 

“I started in 6th grade and I didn’t have a teacher until about 8th grade so I developed some bad habits. I’m saying this from someone who has experienced what it’s like to go through that change of not having a teacher then having a teacher and correcting a bunch of things. It’s better to have someone who’s on your side and knows that ‘hey you can do this!’ Having that support is amazing.” – Dena Brennan, Class of 2024 

Without playing in a group setting or receiving instruction from a teacher, you may be practicing wrong over and over, which can be difficult to overcome. In our summer music camp, we prioritize individualized instruction in small group settings. Housing Coordinator Cyrinthia Decker shared that in the instrument workshops, “I get to see kids work with industry professionals of their instrument and learn tips, tricks, and best practices in a safe space that is just for them.”

Participating in a structured music program affords students the opportunity to work with different teachers than they work with throughout the school year, sometimes with a higher teacher to student ratio than they may get at school. Every teacher brings their own unique style of teaching and experience– you never know when you’ll meet the teacher who will change your life! 

“Mrs. O, Mr. Masaki, Ms. Watanabe, and Mr. Fanning provided guidance that taught me to think about my music in a more critical light – considering not just the technical aspect of music but also how my part fits into a piece as a whole. I am grateful to PMI and HYS for enabling me to learn from bassoon teachers Mr. Fanning and Mr. Morrison in addition to my teacher Mr. Richard Hotoke. They have given me invaluable advice on bassoon techniques, reed making, and the college audition process.” – Kainani Nitz, Class of 2024

By working with a variety of mentors in a structured summer program like Pacific Music Institute, students can use this time to dive deeper into their passions and develop their skills.

Connecting with Peers

Summer programming is a great opportunity for students to develop their social skills. Through summer classes or camps, students broaden their horizons and meet new people from outside of their typical home and school environment.

Hawaii Youth Symphony offers need-based financial assistance to local students, with hopes that any interested student, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to explore their musical interests. Through introductory music programming like Summer Strings in Honolulu and Super Strings in Kailua, students as young as eight years old can meet keiki from different schools in their community and learn a new skill. 

Pacific Music Institute, HYS’s day camp for middle and high school students also has financial aid and additional funding available to provide travel assistance to neighbor island students and more opportunities for students from Title I schools. 

“Staying musically active during the summer is crucial for our young musicians,” says HYS President & CEO Randy Wong. “Not only will summer music keep their skills sharp, but the regiment and structure of practice also fosters creativity and discipline that can benefit them in all areas of life. By participating in summer music programs, youth can further their passion and connection to the arts, ensuring they return to school even more inspired and confident; ready for the new year and more personal growth.”

The social dynamics within any of these musical ensembles introduce young participants to the principles of teamwork and collaboration. In a music program, students experience the profound beauty of creating something larger than themselves. This collaborative process not only enhances their musical proficiency but also teaches them the importance of listening, adapting, and supporting one another.

We love seeing the camaraderie form between students who just met a few days ago and leave with a network of friends who share their passion and understand their challenges. These young musicians emerge from the summer programs not just with improved musical abilities, but with life skills, memories, and friendships that will support them in whatever path they choose to follow.

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