© Stephen Simpson Getty Images
© Stephen Simpson Getty Images

Little musicians’ holidays: should we take their instrument along?

The holidays are finally here. While it might be a blissful time for children, two months away from school requires a lot of logistics from parents. On the do-not-forget list: the youngest brother and the music instrument. But wait, should we really take this last one or not?

- Big suitcase: in the boot,   -   Mini fridge: under granny’s feet   -   Tent: on the roof (so this is where I left my cell phone)   -   Dog: lying under the front seat   -   Beach gear: under the umbrella   -   Canary and goldfish: safe at the neighbour’s   -   Passports and prescription drugs: in the glove box -   Children have their teddies and toys. Everybody’s strapped in, there’s water for everyone. OK, everything is here. Now, holidays here we come!

You’re all set and ready to get the engine started when you hear a small voice in the back of your neck: "Did you think about the piano? The teacher told me I absolutely needed to practice during the holidays ...

Indeed, what should we do with the instrument on vacation? You didn’t think about it. And yet, you have planned everything from books and board games to colouring, grammar and math exercises. Enough to entertain hot afternoons and rainy days, anywhere you do. But the piano doesn’t fit in the car. Two months without their instrument, it's not so much, after all ... (Why the hell did we say "no" when he asked us if he could take up the trumpet?)

Rookie mistake. The teacher had very good reasons to tell your child to practice. Not only does he want your budding musician to avoid losing everything he learnt this year, but he also wants to keep him motivated granted the great momentum they built up together all year long.

Maintaining his marks on the keyboard, keeping his finger flexibility, not forgetting notes’ concepts and rhythms, these are what will keep him in touch with what he learnt during the year. He does not stop reading during the holidays, does he?

So don’t panic. It’s okay not to have a piano, a harp or a double bass in your holiday house - or any instrument that doesn’t travel well for that matter. For the others, you may still have some room in the suitcase... 

Whatever happens, here are three solutions to spend musical holidays. 

Classic high-risk solution: continue as usual

The ideal solution, if there is any, and if you’re lucky to have a child that plays a transportable instrument, is to take both the scores and the instrument with you. Do not expect the daily exercise pace to be maintained during holidays. It would be too easy. Not sure your camping neighbours would appreciate the trumpet at nap time anyway. But occasionally do suggest replacing bedtime or afternoon reading with a bit of music practice. Why not review together the songs your child learnt during the year? Or invite said neighbours to a small récital as a prelude to a well deserved aperitif? Not sure the plan will work, but it's sure worth a try.

“The Holiday method” solution: get your hands dirty.

Motivation is the key, so try to take the instrument out of its usual "homework" context. If you play a bit of music yourself or if you have musicians around you, create convivial moments where you can sing and play together. Long evenings under the stars work so well and if you know how to play a little guitar, that’s all you need. In both cases, sing a little song, prepare a repertoire to play on various summer occasions. Your child will join you with or without the instrument, if he has the opportunity or if he feels like it. But he will realize that making music together is fun. And so will your friends.

The “not even scared” solution: take big measures    

Keeping the bond with music also goes through discovery. Instruments, musical genres, composers, everything can be turned into a game. This approach has two key advantages: on the market, there is a plethora of media dedicated to music: book-discs, films, cartoons, applications, radio broadcasts and video ... and you can’t go wrong in comparison with the interest your children will take in them. But it will be necessary to invest time, prepare and create his holiday collection.Plan music or stories to be discovered during long car journeys: police investigations, composers’ life stories, operas for children, themed selections ... Compose your selection and dive back into classics: it may be the opportunity to rediscover a new version of Peter and the Wolf. Discuss music from elsewhere: through musical stories or songbooks from different countries. It can even become your strongest asset during negotiations: « Do you want to watch TV?" Yes, but today there’s Piccolo Saxo! The tablet? Why not The Animal Carnival! The game of Seven Families? Perfect, I have one with musical instruments