Welcome to Art's Articles for the Month of:
Well, it's getting to be that time.  Are you ready to go back to school yet?

I could almost hear the scream.  Back to school?  I just got out of school.  The term is hardly over, and you're telling me that it's time to go back?

You can relax!  It's not really time to go back to school, but it is time to start thinking about some questions that you need to consider before the start of the new school year.

1.  Am I going to be serious about progressing in my playing this year, or am I just in this for the fun? 
There is no wrong answer to that one folks!  You've heard me talk about having fun with your instrument over and over.  Honestly, the majority of the people who start playing the violin never make a dime with their instrument.  They are in it for the joy of the instrument, and that is just fine.  And along with that there is a relief in knowing that in many respects the summer vacation from classes is also a summer vacation from hard violin practice.  Just don't let the instrument gather too much dust.  Pick it up and play it regularly, and have a lot of fun.  We don't want you to regress too much over the summer.  You can go ahead and read the rest of the questions though, you may want to answer some of them.

But if you are serious about making progress, you need to be sure that you are maintaining a practice regimen just the same as you were throughout the school year.  If you normally just take lessons through you school, maybe you can find a teacher with whom you can take a few private lessons over the Summer to work on a specific technique.  If that's not feasible you can make use of your lesson books and your family's video camera and critique yourself!  Or maybe you're lucky enough to have a chamber ensemble with whom you can practice.  But don't let the Summer go to waste if you're really serious about the instrument!

2.  Is it time for me to make a change in my violin?
That can be an upgrade to a better quality violin.  If you do decide that this is a time for a quality upgrade, you need to be doing some research into the instruments that are available. 
Who built the violin?
When was it built?
Is it in good shape?
Is the violin's sound what I really want to produce, or do I need a violin that is more mellow, has more bite or whatever?  The violin is an extension of you.  I never had a bright, vibrant sound.  It just wasn't my personality.  My instrument is far more mellow than many.  I had a friend who many people believed would become a fine professional violinist, and his violin (as I recall) was fiery in its brilliance.  As it is, he switched to the viola in college and now travels the world with a small ensemble, being praised worldwide for his rich, dark tones.

But if you have the right instrument, this may be the time to have maintenance done on it. Repairs, replacing hardware, re-hairing a bow, experimentation with different strings.  These are things that can more easily be done when your schedule is not at its busiest.  Many families take vacations during the Summer.  That's an ideal time to leave the instrument with your luthier to have work done.

3,  Do I have all the accessories I need in place to help me along the way?
Music stands, bags, even shelves on which to store things can help greatly.  Do you own, want or need a metronome, electronic tuner, tuning fork?  Do you have a humidifier for your case?  Is your violin case in good shape or is it time to replace that?  If everything is in place when your Fall schedule starts back up you'll be ready to start off the new school year with a BANG!

No, it's not time to head back to school, but it is a great time to be thinking about what you want to do with the violin next year, and what you need in place in order to accomplish your goals!