How Do I Choose the Right Music Camp for my Kids?

in Music

These days there are literally hundreds of choices for summer camps and usually several dozen of those are music camps.  From Girls Rock Camp, to Intro to Guitar, to Advanced Chamber Music, how is the parent of a budding young musician to decide?  As the parent of an eager seven-year-old musician and a music teacher myself who has taught at several different kinds music camps over the years, I know the decision can be daunting.

Obviously the best place to start is with your child.  For most parents I have talked to this is where the whole idea came from in the first place:  Johnny’s friend did Rock Guitar Camp last year and loved it, Mikayla has always wanted to be in a Broadway Musical and she heard they are auditioning for the Sound of Music at the school down the street.  Most camps have clear age and ability requirements as well, add to this scheduling, location and price and it may seem that the decision is practically made for us.

Or is it?

Surprisingly, the one variable that I rarely hear parents talking about in the pick-up line at school is the quality of instruction.  I understand that the primary goal for most music camps is to entertain the children while parents are at work, keep them from killing each other and, maybe, expose them to a little music along the way.  While this may be fine for many open activity, outdoorsy type camps, music study entails many very refined skills in technique, the development of a good ear and a knowledge of style.  The difference between an excellent teacher and mediocre one is the difference between a child who is motivated and capable of reaching their potential and a child that is frustrated, bored or, worse, decides they don’t like guitar (or piano, or singing or whatever) after all.  

Before settling on a choice of music camp I would encourage parents to dig a little deeper and check to see that the instructors have experience teaching young children and, preferably, have gone to college to study music pedagogy.  Teachers who are certified by a national organization such as Suzuki teachers, or the Music Teachers National Association also are more likely to have some music education training.

Finally, make sure the camp is appropriate for your child’s ability.  I remember a budding young guitarist who, after one summer in which he found that he was so far below the other musicians in the Chamber Music Camp, that he dropped out of guitar completely.  Consider if a camp that broadens your child’s interest such as a World Music Camp or Improvisation Camp would be better or if they are ready to take things to the next level with something more intensely focused on their instrument.

Above all, try to find friends with first hand experience with the music camp.  There is nothing like a little inside information to cut through all the glossy marketing.

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steadmanklondike has 1 articles online

Klondike Steadman is a director at Orpheus Academy of Music in Austin TX.  
Orpheus Academy of Music is an after-school music academy offering private lessons and group classes in Guitar, Piano, Violin and Voice to students of all ages.

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How Do I Choose the Right Music Camp for my Kids?

This article was published on 2013/07/18