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CMPI Violin Alumnus Sameer Agrawal just completed his first year at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. We asked him if he had some suggestions for current students to help prepare them for life at conservatory or college. Here’s what he told us:

Sameer at Curtis

Plan your practicing

Sameer emphasized that it was essential for him to determine how much time he wanted to practice each day and then make sure he made time for it. Know how much time your coursework will take, as well as chamber music and orchestra, and find pockets of time to practice. You might be able to plan a regular schedule, but it probably will change week to week.

Know your schedule

Sameer uses a calendar app to keep track of his schedule of rehearsals, lessons, classes, and coachings. Using a physical or online calendar is essential to make sure you don’t miss anything, as well as giving you a way to look ahead and plan accordingly.

Take injury prevention seriously

For Sameer, injury prevention is essential. He builds in breaks in his practice schedule, always does warmups, and stretches after he plays. He also builds his schedule around his physical limits. Important in that practice planning is knowing his maximum safe amount of daily playing. Between lessons, chamber music, orchestra, and individual practice, he spreads his playing throughout the day and night so that there is time to rest between. Sameer also made sure not to play too much all at once. He recommends making use of any injury prevention and treatment programs or classes that are offered at your school.

Prepare for your lessons

Sameer believes that it is essential to prepare before your lesson because you only get limited time with your teacher each week. If he is bringing a pianist to his lesson, he makes sure to rehearse with the pianist ahead of time. Some teachers will want you to play through your entire piece at the beginning of the lesson, so practice enough that you feel comfortable playing through. Sameer tries to plan at least a week in advance to know what piece he will bring to the next lesson and have time to adequately prepare and practice it.

Learn to say no

It is easy to get overburdened if you say yes to every chamber group, gig, or other performance opportunity you are offered. Sameer learned very quickly to say no when the opportunity would take too much time or would not advance his goals, even if it was a paying gig. He had to prioritize both his health and his personal goals in choosing which opportunities to accept.

Don’t forget the basics of self-care

Sleeping and eating often go by the wayside, especially in places with as much vibrant music-making going on around the clock like conservatories. Sameer emphasized the importance of knowing when he had to be available the next day to plan when he should sleep. He also made sure to plan his schedule around when he wanted to sleep and eat meals.

Get out of the practice room occasionally!

At music schools, it is easy to isolate yourself in the practice room all day and night. Especially in smaller schools, students may live and attend many of their classes in just one building, so they may forget to go outside for days at a time. Sameer suggests going for an occasional walk with friends. He enjoys walking to a nearby park for some rest and relaxation. He also recommends keeping up with friends by having meals together and doing homework together.

Build your skills before coming to college or conservatory

There are some skills Sameer has found to be especially useful, and having these in place before even arriving at college is ideal. For example, you may be expected to play orchestra music at sight. Make sure to practice your sightreading in the years leading up to conservatory or college. He also recommends refining your skills in music theory and piano, which will make your classes less difficult and take less time, and may even allow you to pass it out of some classes.


Sameer Agrawal by Nichole MCH

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