Refresh Your Practice


August is here, and we all need some summer refreshment. The dog days of summer can sap your energy and make practicing a chore. But with a little imagination, you can refresh your practice routine using these lighthearted practice themes.

The other day I came across a recipe online for a drink that  looked really refreshing, a cucumber melon cooler. But alas, I didn’t have either cucumbers or melon, so I mixed myself a cool glass of powdered lemonade instead and indulged in memories of summers past.

One of my summer treats has always been my reading project. I began in my teen years to set myself a special summer reading list, one that had nothing to do with school. I plan my reading for the whole summer, not just with a list of books, but with a theme. Usually I choose a specific author (this year I’m reading G. K. Chesterton), although sometimes I order my reading by country or by century, or even alphabetically.

As I drank my lemonade, feeling a little guilty at taking too long a break in my harp practice, I wondered what it would be like to apply the same idea to the harp. I could make a “Summer Practice List” to bring inspiration, refreshment and a little fun to my practice.

Here are a few of the ideas I came up with. Feel free to use them, or create your own!

1. “Summer Getaway.” Choose music themed to your favorite vacation spot. Music about the mountains, the seashore, nature are obvious possibilities. A couple of ideas: Olympic Summer Rain by Jackson Berkey, or To a Wild Rose by Edward MacDowell.

2. “Fifty Shades of…”  Get a deeper perspective on the music of a single composer. Make it an all-Debussy, or all-Grandjany, or all-Salzedo month. If you need inspiration, Vanderbilt Music has a list of some famous harpists, many of whom were also composers.

3. “Playdate.” We all loved playing with our friends. How about making a weekly playdate with another harpist or other musician and explore new chamber music? Get some ideas from a CD by the American Youth Harp Ensemble.

4. “World Traveller.” Pick your favorite place on earth, or your favorite time period in history and explore its music. Or boldly go where you’ve never been before. Perhaps Aryeh Frankfurter’s Music of Scandinavia could musically transport you to the fjords.

5. “We Need a Little Christmas.” It’s never too early to start on your holiday shopping or your holiday practicing. If the Waltz of the Flowers is in your future, check out my interview from last summer with Mindy Cutcher of the Pennsylvania Ballet (look for Course 103) and follow up with my special practice plan for the cadenza.


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