3 Ways to Make the Most of Your Summer Festival Experience

Published February 15th, 2024

So you’re applying for summer programs, and may be starting to think about what teacher you want to study with or what the dorm is like. But what about everything else? Through the experience of musicians at the Brevard Music Center Summer Institute & Festival, here are three ways to make the most of your upcoming summer plans:

1. Put Your Best Foot Forward - Starting with the Application!

Are you guilty of waiting until the last minute to apply? Did you record your videos once and call it good enough? Are you planning to record old repertoire that might not show your current level or technique? Summer music festivals, like university programs, have limited spots. It’s vital that your audition materials show at your absolute best.

Even if you make it into a program with your audition audio or video as-is, weak points in the audition could greatly affect your scholarships, teacher placement, and more. We encourage students to record their materials in advance if possible, then take a listen and see if anything needs to be a bit more polished and re-recorded.

If you’ve already submitted your application but the deadline isn’t past yet, it doesn’t hurt to email the Admissions Office and see if you can send an updated link!

At left, a violinist practices in a small practice cabin with woods surrounding him. At right, two violists laugh and practice outside by the lake and trees

2. Choose Your Summer Repertoire Wisely

What pieces should you bring to a summer festival like Brevard? For starters, you do probably need something polished that is ready to play. This can be used in arrival auditions as well as in solo performance opportunities such as a library recital or pre-concert music event. 

Next, consider bringing a piece that you have started but not fully learned yet. This means you’ll have done some foundational work with your own teacher and started learning the notes, but that you can still be open to outside opinions, ideas, and phrasing or fingering suggestions. This type of piece is also ideal for studio classes, where you can workshop a section with a faculty member in front of other students.

Finally, consider bringing a piece that you haven’t started yet. You don’t have to learn it fully with your summer faculty member, but this can be a great chance to learn a new way to approach a new piece. That preparation could include pre-piece exercises, practice strategies, or even making your own etude from difficult sections of the work before fully starting it. Bonus points if you read the faculty bios and see who is an expert in, for example, early music or new music!

At left, a timpanist plays on stage at Brevard. At right, a wide shot of the Brevard stage with a full house and orchestra.

3. Embrace the Non-Musical Activities

A typical week at the Brevard Music Center includes a private lesson, studio class, chamber music, and practice time, plus orchestral rehearsals and a sectional for instrumentalists. We also have regular guest artist masterclasses, guest clinicians and residencies, and other special-topic classes. As incredible as it is to immerse yourself in music, what else could you do during the week? 

Non-musical activities, or even music-adjacent activities away from your instrument, are a great way to rest your body while exploring other interest areas. At Brevard, for example, you could join a weekly, on-campus yoga class, take an Alexander Technique class, or attend a non-classical concert. Other on-campus activities could include swimming, playing soccer or basketball, or setting up a ping pong table tournament.

Plus, the program’s Residence Life team should offer a variety of off-campus activities, too. Regular trips at Brevard include rafting, hiking, visiting waterfalls, shopping, and more. These types of activities also give you a chance to visit with students outside of your instrument or discipline, such as composers, vocalists, orchestral musicians, pianists, classical guitarists, and more. 

Wherever you go this summer, we hope you have an incredible experience full of new adventures and activities!

Learn more about Brevard Music Center Summer Institute & Festival

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