What is the Key to a Successful School Year? The TPMS Community Weighs In

If you’ve been keeping up with our #TPMSKeyToSuccess series over on Instagram, then you’ll know that the People’s community has been offering our students some great tips for this back-to-school season. Our teaching artists, staff, board, and alumni have some words of wisdom for setting students up for success this school year.

Stay Organized

Back of the Yards Program Manager Azalea Laredo reviews composition project practice

Students are busy with all kinds of activities, including music. “It’s hard to keep track of all the things we need!” says Back of the Yards Program Manager Azalea Laredo. “What I do, and used to do growing up, is that one night before, I would pack everything. My backpack with my books, my uniform, my soccer equipment, my music instruments, my music binder. Everything! So that way, I would just get ready in the morning and could be sure I wouldn’t forget anything.” Being prepared and staying organized will ensure you start the day off on the right foot!

Slow practice builds technique

President of The People’s Music School, Francis Graffeo, with an Uptown Academy cello class

It’s exciting when you get a new piece to work on and want to dive in immediately. But Francis Graffeo, President of The People’s Music School, reminds us that slow practice will get you far. “As a kid, when I was learning piano and the other instruments I studied, I always wanted to play fast,” Frank says. “So I practiced fast sometimes. That’s not good for you!”

No matter your instrument, remind yourself to practice slow. “Slow practice helps build your technique. You can explore musical ideas slowly, you can experiment slowly. You’re building that muscle memory, and the speed will come later. If you practice fast, you could practice errors into your playing–you don’t want to do that! Practice slowly and take your time.” 

Celebrate the little victories

Felix Ponce, teaching artist and Uptown Academy band director, performs with faculty jazz ensemble at Pritzker Pavilion

The feeling of playing a wrong note or not coming in at the right measure can be frustrating, especially when you’ve practiced hard and know a piece really well. But we shouldn’t be discouraged by those mistakes, says teaching artist and Uptown Academy band director Felix Ponce.

“We’re going to make mistakes. That’s just who we are as humans. Everybody does, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, advanced–even the most professional musicians make mistakes.” But it’s how you learn from those mistakes that matters. “The more that we can put our focus on those little victories and use that as motivation to keep moving forward, the better we’re going to be as musicians.” 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Jessica Esteves studied violin at People’s from 2010 - 2017 and is now on staff as the HR Coordinator

It can be difficult to ask for support from those around you when you need it most. But Jessica Esteves, TPMS alum and current HR Coordinator, points out that asking for help is one of the best ways we can feel empowered. “I’m reminded of our values,” Jessica says. “Opportunity, creativity, excellence, hard work, and community.

“Asking for help doesn’t negate any of the hard work you’ve put in. It opens up the opportunity for creative solutions done in collaboration with your TPMS community so that we can support each other as we cultivate excellence in ourselves, our passions, and each other.”

Spread the word!

Cici Zheng (center) with two SLAM students, Melanie and Jiana, at our 2019 Big Night gala.

Beyond the music classroom, beyond the performance stage, there is a community of  People’s people whose support of accessible, quality music education transforms lives. TPMS board member and SLAM mentor Cici Zheng encourages the TPMS community to share the values and impact of The People’s Music School far and wide.

We can share our impact by having “really engaged students, a community that is aware of all the amazing things that students are doing and all of the incredible teachers and staff that are supporting this organization,” says Cici. “Creating more awareness all around about what [The People’s Music School] is doing and the benefits that it provides is one of the best keys to success that we can have.”

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