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Finding the Right Fit

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Just as school music programs come in all shapes in sizes, so too do the extracurricular offerings for students looking to spend their summers singing. Although there may be tremendous variety in summer camps and workshops for vocal music students, each with a great number of obvious benefits, this recent CD reader survey indicates that there are several important trends worth noting. The first is that, typically, only the most dedicated, enthusiastic, and fortunate students attend summer camps and workshops, as there are innumerable other ways in which young people can spend their summers, and many specialized vocal music summer programs may be expensive or hard to get to, particularly for students of limited means. The second point, which was made emphatically in the comments of responding choral directors, is that the key to a successful camp lies in the hands of the instructors. Regardless of the location, setting, performance opportunities, cost, or any other factors, the essential ingredient in any summer music camp or workshop is a dedicated and inspired staff that fosters an enthusiasm for singing among all attendees, regardless of skill level.

How many of your students attend vocal camps and workshops?

All – 2%
Most – 5%
Some – 10%
A few – 56%
None – 27%

“Students are very busy and the athletic camps seem to carry more influence at this time.”
Jayne McDonald, Blackhawk School District, Beaver Falls, Pa.

“About half of my students attend camps, but the camps they attend are mostly local and focused on Musical Theater.”
Cristie Bates, D.C. Everest Senior High School, Schofield, Wis.

“We have workshops at school every summer for all choral groups. Most students attend some other form of summer camp or workshop outside of the ones at school.”
Joy Augustin, Omaha Mercy High School, Omaha, Neb.

“We live in a rural location at great distance from most camps; this is also a low-income area (85 percent are on federal free-reduced price lunch programs). Cost and travel make most camps prohibitive.”
Ruth Lovelace, East Minico Middle School, Rupert, Idaho

Do you yourself work at a vocal music camp or workshop?

Yes – 59%
No – 41%

“I try to attend at least one thing each summer. Typically, I like to do a director’s retreat and the NCDA Conference if I’m able. I’ve also participated in Hal Leonard’s ‘The Conductor’s Craft.'”
Martha Johnson, Nebraska Lutheran High School, Waco, Neb.

“This summer will be my sixth at the USDAN Center for Creative and Performing Arts. USDAN has been the joy of my professional career. The atmosphere is the opposite of public school I am expected only to conduct, not handle paperwork, attendance, discipline or parents. What a gift!”
Eileen Benedict, Oakdale-Bohemia Middle School, Oakdale, N.Y.

Which elements of a camp or workshop are most important for your students?

A fun musical experience in the summer – 21%
Cost – 20%
Meeting other like-minded vocal music enthusiasts – 16%
Opportunities to learn advanced techniques – 15%
Different instructors/literature – 14%
Location – 13%
Other – 1%

“Summer music programs should be engaging and challenging. There is a fine balance between pushing too hard and not expecting enough. Summer camps should always foster two main ideals. First and foremost should be fostering the love and joy of music to all that participate. Second should be equipping students with new and necessary skills, techniques, and repertoire.”
Stephen A. Holmes, The Maryland State Boychoir, Baltimore, Md.

“Summer Music camps are great for students to get a different perspective on singing and being in different types and sizes of choral groups that may not be available at their school.”
Stan Scott, Central High School, Grand Junction, Colo.

How do you and your students typically find summer music camps or workshops to attend?

Recommendation from friends/colleagues – 47%
Advertisements/brochures (in print or online) – 44%
Other – 6%
Internet/Web search – 3%

Is there anything to be wary of when selecting a camp or workshop to attend?

“Watch out for conductors who are more interested in their choir being ‘superb’ than in the musical experience. At one camp, I even had an instructor comment to me wondering why the parents would send their child who was not particularly talented. Maybe for the love of music and the opportunity to learn more?!”
Linda Akins, Maryville Middle School, Maryville, Mo.

“Always make sure the clinician/director is knowledgeable about good vocal technique for the specific age group. Many times clinicians are hired on reference and name but not experience.”
Michael Lisi, Learwood Middle School, Avon Lake, Ohio

“Some of these summer workshops are more about generating income for those that run them than providing a quality musical experience. Those that focus on providing a quality musical experience are often very competitive and pricey.”
Bruce C. Lengacher, Acalanes High School, Lafayette, Calif.

“Reputation and quality of the instructors. The instructors can make or break the experience for the student. When they come back from camp, students should have the fire of motivation that carries into the next school year.”
Ron Sayer, Marshall High School, Marshall, Mo.

“I think the most important thing is that kids are being sent to music camps with qualified instructors. I do a lot of research and ask a lot of questions before recommending a summer program.”
Michael Ehrlich, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, Va.

“Always, always, always try to get as much information as possible about the program from someone who has participated in the program, from a colleague whose students may have attended, or from former and current instructors. First-hand perspective is helpful, although one needs to weigh opinion carefully.”
Margaret Anne Butterfield, Wilmington Friends School, Wilmington, Del.

Additional thoughts on summer vocal music camps and workshops?

“In a small district, students are involved in a lot of activities, all of which encourage summer camps. My students would be more likely to attend a short camp (2-5 days) because it would fit into their schedules better.”
Alisa Brown, Concordia R-II, Concordia, Mo.

“Summer camps are a great opportunity to grow in your skill and still have fun while meeting others who share your love of music!”
Amy Gelsone, Anthony Wayne High School, Whitehouse, Ohio

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