So you’ve just returned from that All State Choir preparation camp. You are exhausted, and your brain is an over-soaked sponge. You may or may not have heeded my advice about how best to utilize your voice at camp and your singing at this very moment may not be….shall we say…. your best? But you also are buzzing with excitement, full of stories of the people you met, the college campus you visited, and the music you drilled into your brain for the past three or four days. You may even feel relieved to have started in on this huge pile of music.
You may have one little choral angel on one shoulder saying: “Lemme at it! I’m ready! Let’s have Region NOW!” But if you are wise and this isn’t your first rodeo, you’re also hearing from the other shoulder: “What I really got out of camp is a long list of things I need to be working on.”
There definitely is a special space in the corner of your brain permanently dedicated to this music, due to the intense rehearsal process you’ve already undergone. When you’re 110 years old in a nursing home and hear the Poulenc Gloria you may start singing along. However… if you were to set your music down and, say, not pick it up until school started (I know who you are), you’ll remember a lot, but I can guarantee you will have forgotten even more.
I commend you for jumping in with both feet and giving up your time and your (parents’) money to do so, but I want to challenge you to think of camp as the beginning of a journey. I’ve never known an All-Stater who didn’t attend a summer camp, so you’re already on the right track.
At this point in time, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you to rest, but I will anyway…..REST. I have already heard stories of my own students and people my students met at camp who wrecked their voices there with overuse. Hopefully, that’s the one and only time they ever make that mistake….and I hope even more that they didn’t cause any lasting damage to their voices in the process. You don’t gain anything at all by sacrificing your vocal health for this process, so take the time now to allow your voice the time to heal. This is SERIOUS business because you only ever get ONE voice. You wreck it, you’re stuck with it. So sleep, hydrate, and refrain from singing OR talking. And if you’re still hoarse three or so days after you return, go see an ENT to make sure you are on the road to healing.
Once you’re feeling rested, PRACTICE. You will retain so very much more if you do practice and practice well. It is time to get specific about what you need from your practice time. Did they run out of time to teach the gender pieces? Was one song left off the concert because they skipped the middle section? Are you still on solfege in certain places and need to learn the language? Was there one note you always had to sneak in on because you weren’t confident enough to find it on your own? Target these areas and take them to your teacher (who you are seeing regularly for private lessons over the summer…right? Right?!)
When I meet a new student in their first week of High School, I always talk to them about their goals: for music, choir, and high school in general. Normally, I’ll also ask them if they want to be Valedictorian and most say “Oh, no! That’d never happen!” I ask them, “Why not? The playing field is level, everyone is starting with a 0.0. Anything is possible.” So remember that at this moment, everyone is on a completely level playing field. If you’re new to this process, you may have met or heard some of those former All Staters at camp and you may be feeling a bit intimidated….so just remind yourself:
At this very moment, ANYTHING is possible.