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and isolate passages that need extra work. Students should then analyze their recordings to identify errors, specifically according to left or right hands.

Once students are able to ascertain what causes the mistakes in their playing, they can address the mistakes by implementing practice strategies learned in class or from their applied instructor. To keep track of what is successful, students should keep a journal of what techniques helped them learn the difficult passage. For passages that cannot be solved individually, students can return to their instructors with a list of failed strategies and ask for help. Both audio and audio-visual recordings are helpful, and ideally, students should use a mix of both recording techniques when analyzing their playing.

4. Play Early and Play Often – Students should have weekly opportunities to play their repertoire in front of live audiences beginning at least one month prior to the solo and ensemble festival. Having performance opportunities scheduled well in advance will hold students accountable and decrease the likelihood they will procrastinate. Informal performance opportunities can include playing for their school music class, performing for their families and neighbors, playing during a chamber music concert at school or a community outreach concert, or a host of other options.

Most students get nervous the first time they play alone or with a small ensemble in front

of an audience, and providing extra opportunities for your students to perform in front of others will help ease their anxiety. As the students become more confident as a performer, their nerves will subside and their musicality will be able to shine. Ultimately, a solo or small ensemble performance should feel like an ordinary event in your students’ lives. By removing anxiety and nervousness throughmultiple performance opportunities – as much as some students may not like them at the time – you will be helping your students have a successful festival experience.

5. Put the Instrument Down – Periodically, students should put down their instruments and practice their performance without anything in their hands. Removing the instrument from the practice process heightens musicians’ awareness and helps them decipher problems. Like yoga, musicians become aware of tiny muscle movements and how those affect their performance. In addition to removing the instrument, it is also important to remove the music from practice sessions. Ideally, music is memorized. However, mental practice of music that may not be completely memorized still allows the brain to soak in the details of the music both deliberately and subconsciously.

Practicing away from both the instrument and music also allows musicians to hear the music in their head and to reinforce their inner voice. Periodic mental practice is a great way to spend time reinforcing musical aspects of a performance in the later stages

of learning a piece. It is also useful earlier in the process when students have limited time between other activities and may not have an instrument with them.

In an ideal world, all students would be able to experience the joy and elation of successfully performing by themselves and in small ensembles. Students who experience this joy will surely seek more opportunities to find pleasure in playing their instruments throughout their lives. The five tips above will help your students have better solo and ensemble festival experiences, but more importantly, they will hopefully help to create lifelong musicians.

Dr. James Mick is an assistant professor of music education at Ithaca College in upstate New York. He is also music director of the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and president-elect of New York ASTA. He earned degrees from Texas Christian University (BME), Ithaca College (MM), and Florida State University (PhD).

Dr. David Pope is Director of Orchestras with the Elyria City Schools near Cleveland (OH), the conductor of the Camerata Orchestra at Case Western Reserve University, and co-director of the Florida State University String Orchestra Camp. He is a frequent guest conductor and clinician throughout the United States.

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