Summer Study: Why Continuity is Critical
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Summer Study: Why Continuity is Critical

The Hartt School Community Division in JuneAlthough summer is often viewed as a time for respite from the rigors of our school-year academic and extracurricular pursuits, it is also viewed by many as a time when the learning process can come to a screeching halt—with potentially significant consequences.

In the world of traditional academics, according to researcher Harris Cooper,  “summer school does, in fact, make a difference.”[1] A study published in Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development found that “Summer programs focusing on remedial or accelerated learning or other goals have a positive impact on the knowledge and skills of participants.” [2] Academic summer coursework, then, is a way to correct, maintain, or even pull ahead for students. But what about summer study in the performing arts? We asked prominent faculty and administrators from The Hartt School and The Hartt School Community Division to weigh in.

Summer Study at The Hartt School Community Division“Summer study opens your world to new people, new skills, and new possibilities. It allows you to leave behind your normal routines and enter new creative spaces. It offers you exponential growth personally and artistically. And, it brings lasting joy to all involved," says Michelle Murray Fiertek, Adjunct Voice Faculty at The Hartt School, The Hartt School Community Division, and Manchester Community College. 

Michelle is also Program Director of Summer Musical Theatre Intensive (SMTI) at The Hartt School Community Division.  In SMTI, she sees firsthand what summer study does to assist performing arts students: “The world of musical theatre is highly competitive. That aspect has not changed. However, the way to best ensure success as a performer has. Expectations now go beyond the traditional "triple threat" of dancing, singing, and acting. You are expected to be innovative, resourceful, self-motivated, and self-actualizing in terms of your career.  A time of year when a student might be relaxing and enjoying a vacation is a prime opportunity for the most focused and motivated students to get a leg up. Completing a summer program that not only provides education and direct contact with current performers and collegiate faculty, but affords students the opportunity to learn from peers across the state, country, and even world, is critical.” 

Glen Adsit, Professor and Director of Bands at The Hartt School, leads a new summer program titled “Summer Middle School Intensives” at the Hartt School Community Division. He knows, first hand, the value of summer study:  “As a junior-high and high school student, I participated in summer band camps, and they are some of the most valuable and fun experiences I had as a young man trying to be a better musician. In college, I attended a jazz band camp which enriched my knowledge of jazz, and more specifically, jazz trombone. As a young public school band director, I went away to the renowned Aspen Music Festival for two summers where I furthered my skills as a classical trombonist. After my two summers in Aspen, when the “conducting bug” bit me, I attended a conducting workshop for adults of all ages serious about conducting. So you see, I have been attending summer music camps all of my life.”

During the school year, Glen is also Director of the Greater Hartford Youth Wind Ensemble (GHYWE), as well as The Foot in the Door Ensemble, and advises doctoral students. For him, summer study has value in a far different atmosphere. “What makes summer camps unique is the ability to study your instrument in a relaxed and fun environment without the scheduled class bells that go along with the school year. I am particularly excited about the inaugural Summer Middle School Intensives at the Community Division. They have an all-star cast of teachers lined up to provide a fantastic week of music making. For my part, I am excited to bring all the instrumental students together as a band to perform some fantastic repertoire.”

Taking all of these points into consideration leads us to conclude how important it is for students to have continuity of instruction and to be consistent. To take two or three months off can, in some cases, have a negative impact, so it’s important for students to strongly consider studying throughout the summer months. This will help ensure the consistency, the technical edge, and most importantly, the skill set that they have worked so hard to develop during the year is not lost to an extended hiatus.

[1] Cooper, Harris et al. “Making the Most of Summer School: A Meta-Analytic and Narrative Review.” Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, vol. 65, no. 1, 2000, pp. i-127.

[2] ibid