The concept of immersion brings with it one strong command: sink or swim.
In the music world, our immersions come in the form of workshops, symposia, and festivals, and we sink or swim just the same. As I return from another summer of musical immersion, I can't help but reflect on those I've seen swim beautifully... and those who struggled and sank. With such high stakes as your precious technical development, potentially wavering self-esteem, and sense of self as a musician and human, it's best to be sure you know how to swim.
After a total of twelve summers and seven different types of musical immersion programs (many back-to-back in the same year), I think I have it figured out. Sinking is almost always a result of unreadiness in one of four ways.
So when are you ready to swim?
... when you love something.
If you don't love something, certainly don't surround yourself by nothing but highly concentrated versions of that and its biggest fans for a long period of time. Just don't do that to yourself.
Is there something you love to the point of 24 hours not being enough? Is it music? If so, you're 25% ready for immersion.
... when you're confident.
Immersion programs draw the best of the best, period. If you have gone through the type of audition or application process that most of these types of programs require, you have something to offer. Own it!
Can you recognize your strengths and rock them? If so, you're halfway there.
... when you're ready to be wrong.
But don't be too confident. These programs are designed to teach, and that requires a willingness to learn.
Can you ask for and accept feedback and grow from it, without too many hurt feelings? If so, you're nearly ready.
... when you're ready for "camp friends."
Okay, I know festivals and workshops technically aren't "camps," but completely engrossing yourself in an experience completely engrosses you in the people. "Camp friends" are the ones you get to know the fastest and most intensely, the people who you tell secrets, even though you've only known them for two days. People can make or break an immersion experience. They can help you swim or drag you to the bottom, often with them.
If you made it this far through the swimming checklist, you are ready for an immersion. You love something and know what you have to offer. You know that you are not perfect and want to improve. You are excited to find other people just like you.
That being said, applications for most programs go live in about a month - now get out there and immerse yourself in something wonderful!