What do you do to rest, recreate, and/or recharge over the summer?

Seven Music Educators Share Their Thoughts

This article first appeared in the April 2024 issue of Teaching Music.

Efrain Casillas headshotEfrain Casillas
Music Program Coordinator, Tolleson Elementary School District, Tolleson, Arizona, 2024 Arizona Teacher of the Year

As a teacher, when that last bell sounds on the last day of school, our responsibilities for that year may end, but the teacher-stress may linger. Summer months are a time to rest and engage in activities that you do not have time for during the school year. Most importantly it is a good opportunity to spend more quality time with your loved ones who have supported and cheered you on throughout the school year. It is also a good time to engage in activities that will help you grow as an educator and set a solid foundation for the next academic year.

Sleeping in is one of my favorite things to do during the summertime. We are brunch lovers in our home, so summer days are usually filled with special mid-morning meals with my wife and my kids, where we try different recipes and share creations with the rest of the clan. On other days, we get up early, grab a few pieces of fruit and head out to Estrella Mountain to watch the sunrise. The awesome colors displayed as the sun comes up are a sight to see!

Young happy woman resting in the community garden in the middle of city.

Photo: Halfpoint Images / Moment Collection via Getty Images

I start my day with prayer, make sure I exercise, and work in the backyard. Taking care of myself will improve my effectiveness as a teacher and help me rejuvenate.

“Reflecting on my teaching practices enables me to learn from my experiences and helps me improve for the upcoming year.”

I also allocate time slots for professional development activities that I don’t have time for during the school year. This allows me to engage in activities that make me feel fulfilled as a musician. I take the time to reflect on the past year, consider the successes and challenges I have faced, and identify areas for growth. Reflecting on my teaching practices enables me to learn from my experiences and helps me improve for the upcoming year. I also set realistic goals for each month, so I start the school year with monthly goals to shoot for.

Johnny Leal headshotJohnny Leal
PreK-12 Band, Choir, General Music Teacher, North Douglas School District, Drain, Oregon

I try to manage stress and recharge all year long by playing music in a community jazz big band, hunting, hiking, and working with our border collie. My wife is a music teacher, and she is also a songwriter and the band leader for our Americana/blues band, Melissa Ruth & The Likely Stories. During the school year we perform locally both as a duo and with our band. We spend a lot of our summers touring and playing music regionally. It gives me the chance to engage my creativity and be part of an original band as well as to connect with my wife since we are so busy during the school year. The rest of my summer is filled with remodeling the house and other projects we come up with around our place. Finally, because we don’t usually have to get up quite as early in the summer, we try to get out and see as many shows as we can.

Brandi Dent headshotBrandi Dent
Choral Teacher, Elite Scholars Academy, Jonesboro, Georgia

During the summer, I spend a lot of time reading. Reading has been shown to provide higher levels of self-esteem and a greater ability to cope with difficult situations. Because teaching requires so much of our attention and focus, I love reading to help get my mind focused on something other than what’s needed for me the next year. Reading for pleasure is also associated with better sleeping patterns. My mind is always on my to-do lists, so getting that rest at night is so beneficial. Reading more helps me sleep better.

woman sitting in window seat reading

MoMo Productions / DigitalVision Collection via Getty Images

I also love listening to music. As I hear new choral music, I add it to my playlists so I may share with my scholars upon my return to school. It keeps me updated on what’s new and trending, but while I’m in a relaxed state. I also like to travel away from home, which allows me to rest and get away from my usual routine of being a teacher.

“… the best advice I can give is to take as much time as needed to breathe and refrain from being a workaholic.”

When the summer first begins and right before it’s over, I spend a day or two reflecting on my year. I might make a to-do list that may include finding grants, modify lessons, research on how to teach a concept or even strategize on how to train my students’ voices better. But I try my best to stay away from over planning. Educators can get overwhelmed during the year, so the best advice I can give is to take as much time as needed to breathe and refrain from being a workaholic. Finally, if you are feeling overwhelmed or burned out, talk to someone about your feelings. Therapy works!

George Andrikokus headshotGeorge Andrikokus
Band Director, Hinsdale Middle School, Hinsdale, Illinois

Recharging and resting are things that took me a long time to learn how to do, and I am still working on them. I personally always aim for a graceful entrance into summer by being intentional about putting things in place prior to the school year coming to an end. The trick for me is to set and maintain nutritional, fitness, sleep, and other protocols throughout the school year, even during the busiest of times, and keep them constant through the summer too. This routine allows for a smoother descent into the break and ascent back into the school year when that time comes. I am then in full control of those summer break-specific activities that help me recharge, like relaxing by the pool, swimming, traveling, and golfing. I find that once I settle into summer, I’m free to begin the process of recreating, and I can, with a clear mind, prep slowly for the upcoming school year.

Male golfer lining up putt on golf course

Photo: Thomas Northcut / The Image Bank via Getty Images

Michquelena Potlunas Ferguson headshotMichquelena Potlunas Ferguson
Associate Director of Athletic Bands, Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania

Each summer, I prioritize travel with my family. Our profession can be an egotistical endeavor, and I have found that scheduled prioritization of my family over the job is vital to me being able to keep life in perspective. Work takes me away so many nights and weekends; dedicated family time in the summer allows me to reboot for the year ahead.

My family and I make summer travel plans early. Besides the obvious ability to financially budget for trips, our early planning has additional advantages. First, it forces me to block out calendar days that are prioritized for my family; and second, it gives me and my family something to look forward to during the very long months leading up to the event.

Parents and two daughters packing suitcase for summer vacation

Photo: 10’000 Hours / DigitalVision Collection via Getty Images

While on vacation, I make a strict policy of no email, no work calls, or texts. I make a point of moving my email app on my phone to the very last page so that I don’t open my phone and tap that first out of habit. Instead, I replace that spot with my photo app, so if I do mistakenly bump that spot on my phone as a reflex, I open the most recent photos from our current family adventures. Another easy reminder that puts things into perspective for me: My colleagues and I always say, “There are no band emergencies.”

Matteo Dillaway headshotMatteo Dillaway
Band Director and General Music Teacher, Loomis Union Elementary School District, Loomis, California

The key for me to recharge is to disconnect, to move, and to catch up on my own interests and relationships. After a long year, festival season, final concerts, graduations, and planning for the next year, I have to disconnect completely. For me, this means that I will work hard until my last day, and I will stay weeks after the last student leaves if I have to just to make sure everything is wrapped up. But, when I am done, the school laptop closes, my school email goes off my phone, and I don’t look at it again until August 1. July is for me and my family, full stop. If there is an emergency, the school has my phone number on file.

“For me, if my cell phone gets reception, it’s not really a vacation.”

July is about swimming every day and being outside as much as possible. I love to cook, so I make sure I create a few dishes/meals that I wouldn’t have time for (four hours, 12 hours, three days? Sure why, not). July is about trout fishing in the mountains. July is about going slow, being spontaneous, enjoying the moment, and getting as much leisure time with my family as possible. July is about driving two hours to get that perfect sourdough out by Bodega Bay, and making every stop along the way just because we can. For me, if my cell phone gets reception, it’s not really a vacation.

dad cooking in kitchen with son

Photo: Tom Werner / DigitalVision Collection via Getty Images

When August 1 hits, though, the laptop opens, emails are answered, and preparation begins, but July is different.

Adam White wearing goggles and doing woodwork in his shopAdam White
Assistant Professor of Music Education, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, Kentucky

After teaching music for more than 20 years, I have discovered that you never truly arrive as a teacher. You never wake up one morning with enough experience, tips, tricks, strategies, or musical knowledge to make the job easy. We work with humans, and humans are never easy. It took me about ten years to discover this fact and another few more to realize that teaching is a great profession because it is never easy, not despite that fact. Teachers play the long game. We hope to make a difference in the lives of our students over time, often never fully grasping the influence we have had on our students.

craftsman in casual clothes and apron standing at table with instrument and focusing while working with wooden plank in workshop

Photo: Alvaro Medina Jurado / Moment Collection via Getty Images

I like to spend my summers renewing and re-motivating by working on small projects in my garage woodworking shop. There are a few things I find particularly rewarding about working with wood. Number one: I get to work with my hands rather than my words. No emails, no communication with administration, and no scholarly work. Number two: All the projects I have built require creativity and problem-solving. Most importantly, I can solve the problems that need to be solved. Number three: When I finish a project, it is done. I get to give it away and complete the cycle. After building several projects, I am ready to return to the classroom, where my proudest work is actualized.

Contribute to the August Issue Jam Session Question!

We’d love to hear from you. To be considered for publication in the August issue, scan this QR code or use this link to submit your response to the question:

How do you assess incoming students at the beginning of the school year?

You will be asked to submit a 150- to 400-word response and a high-resolution photo.

QR code for August 2024 Teaching Music magazine Jam Session survey


How are you unwinding this summer? Share ideas with fellow music educators on Amplify today.

Did this blog spur new ideas for your music program? Share them on Amplify! Interested in reprinting this article? Please review the reprint guidelines.

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.

April 2024 Teaching Music

Published Date

April 25, 2024


  • Lifelong Learning
  • Teacher Self Care


April 25, 2024. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)

Gator Cases Mute Bags for low and high brass players
Messiah University. Learn more. Earn your master's in music conducting or music education. Online. Flexible. Affordable.
Gator Cases new Largo series. Image of high school girl sitting next to music cases in front of green lockers.