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Selecting a Summer Music Camp: 20 Questions to Ask
Hundreds of excellent music camps compete for talented young musicians each summer. How can parents choose the right music camp for their children? This list of 20 questions will help you target your search and determine which summer music camp is right for your budding singer, songwriter, musician or performer.
20 Questions to Ask Before Selecting a Summer Music Camp for Your Child
I encourage you to print and keep this list nearby when you start comparing music camps. A good website or brochure will answer most if not all of these questions for you. If they don’t — don’t be afraid call or email the camp to ask!
1. Who are the camp faculty?
Where do the faculty teach or work the rest of the year (universities? conservatories? high schools?), what kind of professional backgrounds do they have (graduate degrees? prestigious grants? performing ensembles?), and how much experience do they have with children?
How many faculty members are there? What is the faculty-to-student ratio?
Will my young musician have the opportunity to learn from renowned performers and artists, as well as nurturing and experienced educators?
Does the camp have a specialty that caters to my child’s musical interests? (e.g., an international Flute Institute, a Classical Saxophone Institute, a performing arts program, or a jazz program)
2. What are the students like?
What age ranges will be present at camp? Where do the student musicians come from? Will my child be able to meet and make friends with international young musicians, as well as young musicians from across the United States? Will my child have the opportunity to collaborate with students from a variety of musical and cultural backgrounds?
3. What about safety and supervision?
How does the camp provide for the safety and security of my child? What is the counselor-to-student ratio? What health services are offered? Is there an infirmary or hospital on site or in the immediate area?
4. Will my child have opportunities to perform in ensembles?
How many different ensembles are offered? How often are performances, and are they open to the public? Will my child have the chance to perform alongside advanced students, faculty and visiting artists?
5. What is the camp setting?
Is the music camp in an urban or rural setting? Is the campus where the camp is located attractive, well-maintained, and scenic? Will my child enjoy studying music there, and will I enjoy visiting?
6. Does the camp bring in well-known visiting artists?
Does the music camp have relationships with real, working musicians from a variety of backgrounds? If so, do these visiting artists give concerts for the students? Free concerts? Are Master Classes available, and if so, are they free, or is there an added fee?
7. Can my child pay for private lessons with instructors?
If so, how is that arranged? Can I pre-pay for private lessons, or is payment made on-the-spot? Do all of the faculty and visiting artists offer private lessons, or do only certain individuals?
8. What is an average day like at camp?
What is the schedule for an average day, week, or session? How often do classes change? When are the meals? When is the free time? How about practice time? How often are there concerts and recreational activities? Will my child be challenged, or will he have lots of extra time on his hands?
9. How are the music facilities?
What is the performance hall like? Is there ample practice space available to student musicians?
10. What are the dorms or residence halls like, and how are students placed together in halls?
What is the dorm life like? Are the buildings secure? How far are they from the classrooms and performance space? Are there places to safely lock instruments when not in use? Is there a shared public space where students can watch TV, play games, or otherwise hang out?
Do counselors stay on the same floor as the students? Are boys and girls kept separate? How are roommates assigned? Are children separated by age? Can my child request a specific roommate?
11. What are the dining options?
What is the dining plan? What kind of food is served? What about students with special dietary needs? Are there restaurants nearby, or delivery options (e.g. pizza, Chinese food, healthful alternatives).
12. Will my child have a chance to explore a variety of career tracks in music and the performing arts?
Is there a wide variety of classes available? Are interdisciplinary classes offered, such as musical theatre, filmmaking, acting, musical studies, and composition? Will students have the chance to meet and speak with professional, working musicians in a variety of different careers? (e.g. performers, music educators, songwriters, composers, conductors)
13. Will my child have leadership opportunities at camp?
Can he or she become a counselor or teaching assistant? Are there opportunities to work on stage crew? To suggest or lead recreational activities? To initiate extracurricular ensembles? To write or produce musical or film productions? To edit the camp yearbook?
14. Is work-study or tuition reduction available?
Does the camp grant scholarships or financial aid? Can students work off all, or a portion of, their tuition? Are financial incentives offered for recruiting friends and classmates?
15. Is the camp easy to travel to?
What about transportation? How central is its location? How near is it to major transportation hubs such as airports, bus stations and train stations? Will camp staff pick up my child if he or she needs a ride to campus?
16. Is college credit available?
Can my high school student earn credits toward a music degree?
17. What fun group activities are available?
Music camp isn’t just rehearsing and learning all the time. It’s still a summer camp, which means fun activities and time spent outdoors. What kind of recreational, group activities does the camp offer to students? Are there movie nights, bowling nights, pizza nights, and swimming trips? Will my child have fun and, most importantly, make friends?
18. Can parents visit to see their children perform?
How often will my child perform in concerts, and can I attend them? Where will these concerts be? How will I find out about them?
19. How well does the camp communicate with students and parents?
How is the camp’s website? Does it have an easy-to-find, easy-to-use FAQ section? Is the site updated frequently before, during and after each camp session? Are photos, video and audio of campers and concerts available on the site? If so — do the people in the photos and video look like they’re having fun?
Most importantly — is it easy to get in contact with the camp? Is the camp staff good at responding to parents’ questions and concerns?
20. What do alums of the music camp say about it?
Does the camp have a presence on popular social networks like Facebook? If so, what do past students say about their time spent at camp? How many students return in future summers, or choose to extend their stays?
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Don’t forget to print and keep this list nearby when you start comparing music camps. A good summer camp website or brochure will answer most if not all of these questions for you. But if they don’t — don’t be afraid call or email the camp to ask!
Keisuke Hoashi is the co-founder and Director of Communications for the New York Summer Music Festival, a summer camp for talented young musicians. He is a working actor and an artist-in-residence at NYSMF, where he teaches musical theatre, filmmaking and acting each summer. He is also a former trumpet player who attended the New York State Music Camp from 1982-1985.