As I sit on the brink of sending my oldest off to sleep-away camp for the first time, watching videos, calling former campers, reading brochures, I realize that I must honestly answer the question of what makes him (not me!) happy. I greet the process with a fair amount of trepidation. After all, I was the camper who wrote impassioned letters to my parents about my abject misery in the woods of Maine and when they arrived to pick me up, I announced that I had decided that I wanted to stay! Nevertheless, I know that there are some experiences which my child will never have at the age of 10 if he stays at home.
The artistic needs which camp can fulfill vary greatly from child to child and camp to camp. Perhaps the first question to be asked is, “Am I looking for a pre-professional training program, a program where, for instance, my child will focus specifically on music, or am I looking for a camp experience which focuses on the arts more generally?”
A camp, such as the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, would be an example of the former. Programs exist in the music, art, and dance. One can take an art course on the side of one’s music program but, fundamentally, if you are there for music, music is very much your major. In your group there would be music students who will be in the major symphonies in the coming years (in fact, there are graduates in every major symphony orchestra in America); there would be others who will not become professional musicians, but their interest and devotion is serious. Campers live in cabins and the have a full sports program, but the primary benefits of such as experience are (1) personalized instruction, (2) an ability to perform, or exhibit in the case of art, a tremendous amount, and (3) to play with greater talent and with more people in one’s age group than otherwise would ever be possible.
| || |
New England Music Camp is an example of a program which offers more traditional camp experiences with a focus on music. Children go to their practice cabin and practice every day, and there are weekly band orchestra concerts, but many a camper remembers his or her summers there for learning to sail or singing around the campfire.
Then there is the diversified arts camp, such as a French Woods, where a child can major in theater, music and circus and have daily minors of sports, arts and watersports. The facilities of such a camp offer brand new opportunities for a child and, consequently, a time to explore a wide variety of activities.
Camp is another window on the world. It mixes the child pool and re-sorts it. Geography and academics are no longer the criteria for sorting; interests are the new yardsticks. Look at your child. If you are choosing camp for him or her, you can create the summer of his or her dreams. Will it be playing baseball all day long? Will it be starring in a play? The choice of camp is like adjusting the fulcrum: how much music and how much baseball will make the perfect balance for your child. Only you can answer!
Simon, Bonnie. “ARTS CAMPS: Finding the Right Balance for Your Child.” Washington Parent March/April 1993: Print