Music in Summer

Is it important to go to music festivals? Here, I explain briefly some of my experiences and how they have affected my life.

While I was studying my first years in music, my perception of time was based on having to go to school and then vacations. These periods weren’t complementary as I would forget my interests over the summer and spend time with family. In those years, I am sure that I enjoyed and learned something in the time between school years, however I wasn’t following a personal path. I was too young to realize what types of things I wanted and could pursue.

It was later that I discovered that in summer there are music festivals, and then I perceived these as an extension of school to keep learning.

Now, probably as a result of living outside my country (and having to experience the pass of time within seasons), life experiences, and age, I realize that summer brings an amazing number of opportunities to nurture our musical and creative needs.

In summer, as a break from the ordinary, one can be available for experimentation and challenges.

So, if you haven’t done it, go for it: apply, enroll, audit, go to concerts, do whatever you can do to expose yourself to interesting new discoveries. Although this applies to all times, there are more options in summer.


Participants at the Toronto Summer Music Festival with members ofNexus in 2006.

Whether you decide to go to a festival in your hometown or in the opposite part of the world, you will learn something new and different.

Musical challenges go from having to play with and take lessons from new people to preparing repertoire in a short time. If you are going outside your country, you will find challenges around food, language, and social interaction. You will learn from the very beginning, the moment you start packing or when you take the bus or plane.

Without question the course of my life started changing when I attended the Toronto Summer Music Festival to study with the percussion ensemble Nexus. This influenced me to pursue my graduate studies in Canada. I also wonder if, after so many years, this is one of the reasons for deciding to live in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

John Wyre was a member of Nexus who lived and taught in St. John’s. Although I didn’t meet him, I recognize that there are similar aspects about the approach to percussion music between my time at the Toronto Summer Music Festival and this city.

There are many ways to participate in music festivals. You can attend and take lessons with specific teachers, but you can also go to masterclasses or concerts and participate as an audience member.  In both ways you will learn something valuable.

Look for anything that you are interested in. It doesn’t matter if you think that it is “outside” your main discipline.


Besides music festivals there are also conferences that you can attend. Perhaps you are interested in topics related to musicology, ethnomusicology, composition, or improvisation. There are so many different, new, and exciting topics that you can explore.

For example, I have attended and participated in the last three Biennial Andover Educators Conferences (about Body Mapping). Since the first time I was amazed with the subjects discussed, workshops, and classes. At that time, this was a new experience for me. I stepped out from the role of being just a percussionist and I was there as a part of that community. It is powerful to be close to so many musicians, teachers, and researchers from different countries committed to learning about the body and its role in music making.

Last year one of the most interesting talks was about focal dystonia, presented by Andree Martin; you can follow her journey here. The next Body Mapping conference is in 2017 and it will be at the Columbus State University.

In the last years I have also been involved in the Sound Symposium, which is a festival about experimentation and improvisation. I have been exposed to different forms of improvisation, collaborative performances, and new ways of thinking and making music. This year’s Sound Symposium starts this week!

Gabriela's nametags for the Biennial Andover Educators Conference and XVII Sound Symposium


Sometimes there is not enough resources to go to a music festival or a conference. Still it is a time to allow ourselves to rest from past efforts and nourish creativity. I am talking about nurturing ourselves; for sure, you can keep playing in your usual ways, but then question if that is still energizing.

There are numerous ways to ignite or keep the passion and interest for creation burning. It could be that you don’t want to know anything else about music or art and you decide to take any type of vacation. This is also reinvigorating and refreshing.

Perhaps you don’t have a break and need to keep working, but still you can decide to go to one concert, one show, or a weekend in another city.

The important point is to give yourself an opportunity to go out from your own limits and look at what is happening in other places.

My point is: go. Go outside and learn. Learn what you don’t like, what you don’t want, learn about your strengths and weaknesses. Discover something new, a new approach, new music, and new people.Wherever you decide to go, it’s an experience that will shape your career.

All of this is applicable for any moment in your life, but there is something special about summer. Now I realize that in my life, summer has always been a period to renew, to gather something to start again.

These breaks from structured patterns give you freedom. Challenge yourself and discover!