Dr. Kimberly Houser Taylor’s Back to School Tips for Harpists.
Hello Readers! I know that many of you are gearing up for a new school year either as teachers or as students. I find this time of year exciting and full of promise. Learning can be fun and your approach to it can make all the difference. I am proffering you this list of back to school advice so that you can get maximum benefit of your educational experience. These points are gleaned from my many years as a student. I went straight through all three of my university degrees plus have spent time teaching not only harp but also music appreciation, history and theory at the University level. It is from this experience that I am gleaning my advice.
Here we go!
Dr. Kimberly Houser Taylor’s Back to School Advice for Harpists
Pre-Practice. Remember those summer months? Yeah, you should of been practicing. It is understandable that you may want to take some time off, but believe me, you will be able to have more time to spend on your other classes if you have prepped your repertoire before the semester starts. You will also get more benefit of performance training if you go in with music ready for that stage of mastery. The more repertoire you cover during your studying years the better!
Guard your mental health. If you do not already have a regular trusted councilor, then find one. Most universities have some sort of counseling services available. Use them. This includes academic advisers as well as mental health counseling. A university education is an intense experience with a great deal of high pressure expectations. You should feel yourself pushed to achieve and be super motivated, yet those very same things can play havoc with your mental health. Keeping mental balance is important to your success
Spend Zero amount of time stressing about your grade, worrying about your grade, checking on your grade, etc. Study and attend class and do the work and the grade will take care of itself. I promise. If you are attending all lectures, taking notes, doing the work and still not hitting the A/B bracket then you should seek council with the professor. Harpists are historically smart individuals. Playing harp requires a great deal of intellectual power, so if you are struggling, chances are the professor can help you. Just ask and listen to the advice.
About grades. A letter grade is assigned you at the end of a class such as an A or B. the number for that grade is not recorded (as far as I have experienced) So, your record will read A, B, C and will not have the percentage points. A grade of 95% counts the same as 100%. If you are in the 90% using language such as “I am failing,” is kind of silly. Be happy with your A’s and the occasional B’s. A C here and there will not kill you either. If you are meeting your graduation requirements and scholarship requirements, then relax and enjoy learning.
If you are a music student, practice is the most important thing. If your are skipping practice for other course work you must reassess your priorities. I recommend no less than three hours a day. Up that to six if you want to rock the house, more than six and you are starting to get into the realm of obsession and that is not healthy. Oh, but you will play like a dream!
Study ahead. If you get in the habit of doing a bit of work ahead of what is required you will greatly reduce your stress load. This includes both your harp studies and your regular class studies. Having read ahead can really reduce your stress around test time, just as learning the orchestra part sooner rather than later is also good practice. Cramming at the last minute is just a big stress dump you do not need or want
Health. Do all you can to stay healthy. You are important. Stay hydrated, carry healthy snacks, use the health center.
Listen to your teachers. Spend zero energy analyzing whether your teachers are teaching you what they should be teaching you. That is for them to decide. You, as a student, are not well placed to know what you need to know. If you already knew what you needed to know, than you would not be in school. If you disagree about a teaching, bring it up for discussion in a respectful manner. Intellectual discourse is welcome. Ill mannered and disrespectful behavior are not. Relax, let yourself learn from the experience of your teachers and take away with you what you find helpful.
Carve out time for self care. Simple things like a walk or just mindfully enjoying a cup of coffee between classes can really turn down the stress levels.
Remember this is just academia. What happens at the university largely stays at the university, the world cares little about grade percentages and academic papers. Academics care about these things a great deal. Once you are out of school and have that degree on the wall you get to sit with your success and be be proud of your achievements. There is a lot of life to be lived once you are out of school, time for exploring, loving and creating your best life. An education is just a stepping stone to that best life. Give it your all, do your best and know there will be time in your life later for those things that are getting currently eaten up by practice and study.
This is the end of my advice for now.
Kimberly Houser Taylor