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ARTS CAMPS: Finding the Right Balance for Your Child

Should Your Child go to Arts Camp?

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.

He might go to tennis camp and really perfect his game. He could go to computer camp and learn to type at the same time. He would benefit from a summer of team sports in Maine. So why are we looking at arts camps? 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 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 they have a full sports program, but the primary benefits of such an experience are:

  • Personalized instruction

  • An ability to perform, or exhibit in the case of art, a tremendous amount

  • To play with greater talent and with more people in one’s age group than otherwise would ever be possible.

Arts camps offer great chamber music opportunities for young musicians

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.

The arts camp experience offers children an opportunity to meet many children who hold the same interests as the do. The arts in their daily school schedules occupy a minor role; at the arts camp they occupy the major role. The arts have the great facilities; the arts have the major blocks of time. A trumpet player would find another child who plays as well as he does and they would play duets. The band or orchestra would work on repertoire which their school music director could never undertake due to time constrictions. The artistic child who has always felt in the minority is now in the majority. He or she would learn everything from who makes the best French horns to who composed the Symphonie Fantastic. They would meet older children who are today living their dreams of tomorrow: starring in a theatrical production, playing a concerto with the orchestra, being chosen for a solo role in a dance performance. Returning to the camp, they can aspire to accomplish these things themselves.

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!

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