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April 1968 What a Music Camp Experience Should Provide, By George Wilson

The desire of young musicians to concentrate on musical experiences throughout the summer months furnishes the platform from which the great movement of summer music camps has developed. What values can the summer music camp furnish that make it so important? Why do young people continue to seek these opportunities so extensively? In the light of the involvement of some of today’s young people in “fringe” musical activities, what forces still make the music camp so important?
    This summer over 300 music and fine arts camps will provide experiences to thousands of young people. This idea, started at Interlochen over 41 years ago, has grown to enormous proportions through the years. To understand the popularity of summer music programs it is necessary to analyze the reasons for the first establishment of such camps and to determine if the same purposes are still present today.
    Forty-two years ago, at a National High School Orchestra meeting in Dallas, Texas, the students challenged their director, Joseph Maddy, to find a place where they could spend the summer pursuing their interest in orchestral music. This lead to the establishment of the National High School Orchestra and Band Camp (later to become the National Music Camp) at Interlochen. This was the first co-educational summer camp devoted to the fine arts.
   Camp programs offer broad and extensive study opportunities to students of every age. They serve many purposes. Parents find opportunities for their children to explore and foster their talent in preparation for deeper study. At the secondary level students concentrate on their major art interests. In preparation for college training many students take keen advantage of summer study in the arts. Concentrated fine arts study, coupled with an extensive recreational program, has a strong appeal for young people. The camp experience must effectively meet the demands of those who come with much expectation each summer.
   In 1968 these many camps will offer every possible chance for young students to extend, explore, develop, and improve their artistic abilities as they seek to probe the depths of their talent. They need to find out what strengths they have as musicians; they want to measure their ability against that of others; they must find out if they have the ability to make a successful life career of their music.
   There is also a strong desire for extended performance opportunities. Students want performance and they seek more fulfillment of these desires. The beginning student, as well as the advanced student, is keenly motivated by the satisfactions of public performance. The artist, as well as the young student, is stimulated as he engages in public performance. In concert the learning processes are often at their keenest edge with the young student.
   There are many students who have fine creative talents and who want to extend their abilities in these directions. They are afraid to try new ideas and to explore new means of expression. The composer can take advantage of unusual summer opportunities to hear his latest works performed.
   In the summer music camp, students should find the opportunity to advance as rapidly as their talent and industry will allow. This is a place where total involvement in their study can produce maximum achievement. Here, reward can be based solely on achievement, not on other factors, such as seniority or favoritism.
   The opportunity to secure basic training, as well as advanced training, challenges the summer music camp student. He sees here a chance to solve some of his problems, extend his techniques, develop his facility, and enlarge his musical understanding. Through contact with master teachers he can learn the best practice habits, study the techniques of his particular musical interest in great detail, and become involved in a fuller and broader concept of music training.
   The opportunity to become well acquainted with the great body of standard literature for his instrument is a strong motivating force for the summer music camp student. He wants this exposure. He enjoys the beauty and expression of music and seeks to know more fully the great body of fine literature. There is a wealth of music literature in solo performance, chamber music, and large ensemble performance and summer study provides excellent opportunities for acquaintance with the great music of the world.
   Living in close relationship with fellow students, sharing in their successes and defeats, enjoying work and play together, and learning from one another, are all-important factors in the summer music camp program. Here are the opportunities to develop citizenship, sportsmanship, understanding, and to improve one’s personal adjustment to the world in a deeper and more independent manner than at home. The combination of a fine recreation program, the very best counseling and living guidance that can be offered students, and the best available musical training make the summer music camp an exciting and rewarding experience.
   At Interlochen we say our program is “A proving ground for youthful talent . . .” by presenting “a curriculum geared to talent . . .” and “promotion geared to attainment.” These underlying principles have and will continue to bring forth great accomplishments in the lives of thousands of young people every summer, as they enjoy and benefit from summer camp programs. 

   Editor’s Note: In 2010 the summer program drew 1,314 students in three age groups: 663 high school students, 428 intermediate-level students, and 223 junior high students.

   George Wilson is director of the National Music Camp at Interlochen, Mich., and conducts the high school symphonic band. Prior to joining the permanent staff at Interlochen, he taught at Kansas State Teachers College, the University of Arizona, and the University of Missouri. He has been conductor of the Ann Arbor Civic and the Jackson (Mich.) Orchestras and has been active as a violist.