Summer Music Camp For Violinists – Interlochen Summer Arts Camp

For a high-school aged violinist, attending Interlochen Summer Arts Camp can be an experience like no other. The beneficiary of a free ride on a “Governor’s Scholar” ticket, I attended the camp between my sophomore and junior years in high school.

When I auditioned for the scholarship, I knew absolutely nothing about the camp. I didn’t even know where it was located or how long it ran. As I soon discovered, it is located in Interlochen, Michigan, and is situated on a large campus, reminiscent of a collage in the woods. The location is quite remote — the nearest airport is in Traverse City, Michigan.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that Interlochen Arts Camp can seem more like a military academy than a camp devoted to the arts. Witness: a compulsory navy blue uniform (shirt, pants, and even socks), life in unheated, rustic “cabins,” a rotating set of chores assigned to each camper every morning, and a very early morning trumpet wake-up call, followed by calisthenics — and, after that, a full day of music classes and orchestra rehearsals.

And then there is the famous (or infamous) “challenge system.” following your assignment to either the higher orchestra (called World Youth Symphony Ochestra, or WYSO for short), or to the lower ranked orchestra (HSO), campers have to “compete for your seat” each week. What that means is that a faculty member chooses a passage or two from the week’s repertoire, and then requires the rear-most seated violinist to play it, after which the player seated just one spot higher delivers his or her rendition of the same passage. Practice your music like your life depends on it, and you might “move up” several seats or even move from the lower orchestra to the higher orchestra — based on out-competing your stand-partner or the player seated just north of you.

Skip your practice session, and risk falling backwards in the seating, while other, more prepared students, advance. Practice hard, and your reward is to move forward in the seating. Skip out on your individual practice time, and you could find yourself in the back of HSO in a single day.

How are the determinations made as to who wins a challenge? The rest of the orchestra closes their eyes and raises their hand to vote for their favorite.

Stressful? You bet. Motivating? For the majority of students, definitely. For instance, I devoted more intense practice to Interlochen’s orchestra music of the week than to any other music before or since. I worked up the more difficult passages with a metronome, starting slowly and advancing, one notch at a time, when I had mastered (to the best of my ability) a passage at a given speed. Even years later, some of the passages I worked on especially hard still fall with surprising ease under my fingers.

Does all of this sound like fun to you? Maybe not. And, yet, it was one of the greatest and certainly the most intense experiences of my life. For one thing, WYSO was leaps and bounds beyond any other orchestra I had ever played in. Some of the campers who attended Interlochen with me now play in the world’s top orchestras. In addition, I met students from all over the world, from Romania to New Zealand, who (unlike my compatriots back in my high school) shared my interests. The repertoire that we played was fantastic. From Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring to Wagner’s Overture to the Flying Dutchman, this orchestra could deliver a great performance.

Further, we got to perform with world-class soloists. During my summer at Interlochen, my orchestra performed the Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto with Andre Watts, while Itzahk Perlman treated us to the Tchaikovsky Concerto. He even threw his handkerchief into the violin section after finishing the last movement.

In addition, for many of us, it was our first extended visit away from home — in this case, six weeks of living in a parent-free zone. Of course, the camp had lots of rules — which were vigorously enforced, that kept us in line (at least most of the time). But still, being away from home felt liberating in and of itself, and I certainly felt I’d earned some points in the maturity department by the end of the summer.

In my opinion, attending a world-class music camp like Interlochen can provides memories to last a lifetime. Many students attend Interlochen for several summers during their pre-college years, a testament to the fact that, despite all of the rules and discipline, the camp has a lot to offer to its students.

There are other world class music camps, but few others that have built such a “culture” around the experience they offer. Love it or hate it, Interlochen is unique, and its call continues to attract a steady stream of enthusiastic and talented campers from around the world.

Playing For Change, the Project to Bring About Peace Through Music

Playing For Change: Peace Through Music has been called a Global Phenomenon in the way it touches everyone connected with the project and attracts new audiences around the world. Following its award-winning documentary that ran on PBS-TV throughout August of 2009, PFC launched a nationwide tour at The Birchmere in suburban Washington, DC. The subsequent cross-country exposure quickly attracted over 20 million hits on You Tube of the video performance of “Stand By Me” and the CD debuted in Billboard’s Top Ten. Not surprisingly, the band members won ardent supporters when they appeared live on major television news and talk shows.

This summer, PFC performs in New York City’s Central Park and the Hollywood Bowl before heading to London, Paris and the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam. The ensemble returns in time to headline the Vancouver Folk Festival in mid-July.

The improbable undertaking began in 1999 when Grammy winning producer/filmmaker Mark Johnson met Jonathan Walls, collaborator on a history documentary for the National History Museum of Singapore and winner of an Asian TV Award for editing a reality-based series for MTV Asia.

“Our initial goal was to raise money for a film about the lives of street musicians in America,” Walls says. “We began by filming street blues singer Roger Ridley in Santa Monica performing the song ‘Stand By Me.’ Then we went to New Orleans and discovered blues singer Grandpa Elliott who added the harmony.”

Their modest venture quickly evolved into a peace project that took then overseas to film and record more than a hundred street musicians. In the beginning, they followed their noses and began to conceptualize as they went. Traveling with light-weight digital gear, they were drawn to performers in unexpected places. Walls recalls discovering Los Patricians in an open-air market in Spain by following the crowd to their exuberant music. In like manner, they happened upon a choir in South Africa, a cellist in Russia, a soul singer in Amsterdam, Native American drummers on a reservation, and the Three Exile Brothers in Dharamshala, India, the northern tip of the country where Tibetan refugees find solitude.

Their improbable journey took Johnson and Walls from Cape Town, South Africa to Dublin, Ireland and from Katmandu, Nepal to Tel Aviv, Israel, 12 countries in all. Along the way, they filmed and recorded outdoors in cities, parks, and villages and collected a retinue of musicians hitherto unknown outside their communities who headlined England’s Glastonbury Festival.

The band resonates with the power of people yearning to live in “Peace Through Music.” Each performer has a story, perhaps none more unique than that of elderly singer/harmonica player Grandpa Elliott, who had not ventured outside his hometown of New Orleans in 50 years. Walls and Johnson were walking in the French Quarter with their equipment when they heard his booming voice and trailed it until they found him. In a city vibrant with good musicians on every corner, he stood out. Now enjoying experiences he never could have imagined, Grandpa Elliott is a member of a touring band that travels this country and Canada in two large buses, one for the equipment and instruments, the other for the performers and crew.

Walls reveals that future plans involve touring Europe and South Africa with the musicians they initially discovered there. Along with bringing together people eager to achieve peace through their mutual love of music, PFC has established a separate non-profit organization to build music schools for children worldwide, the most recent in Mali. The possibilities, it appears, are limitless.

Homeschooling and Delight-Directed Learning: A Natural for Summer

Delight-directed learning involves helping your kids pursue whatever interests come naturally to them. If your kids have been longing to go to a health care camp, or dive into a new orchestra performance, that’s delight-directed learning, which occurs naturally. Often this is most evident in sports. Our family did summer swim team. Other families will really dive into music and art.

Some kids will do nothing but read books. I had a son who constantly had a book in front of him. A lot of kids will do volunteer work; they’re really into being a candy-striper at a hospital, and summer might be their only opportunity to do that. Others really love working with children, so they go from vacation bible school to vacation bible school helping out with different churches. Other kids will do the majority of their projects like scouting or 4H.

One way you can encourage delight-directed learning is to use summer as a gift-giving opportunity. You can give your children some gifts that will encourage their interests. For my son, this meant buying Teaching Company courses on economics or American government. For my other son, it meant different things, and for your children, it will mean different things as well. If you give gifts that encourage their interests, it can help them to feel like they’re taking a break. Sometimes just a break in the routine will help your kids feel like they are getting a breather from the hard-core academics. Even if it is still educational, they will be happier and more willing to participate if it is a subject that they feel passionately about.