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Summer Music Academy

Music Conservatory of Sandpoint

Our 9th annual Summer Academy hosted 87 children during the months of July and August. Students chose from musical majors and interactive class electives in music theory, theater, ukulele, the visual arts, piano, or orchestra.

Music Conservatory of Sandpoint instructors brought a wide variety of skills together, along with a host of section leaders and mentors. The Academy also hosted two summer interns, with backgrounds in music education, theory, and improv.

Guest conductor Jan Pellant, originally from the Czech Republic added international flair. He is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon and the Prague Conservatory.

The program developed out of a desire for a summer intensive. The curriculum is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges to ensure quality and maintenance of learning benchmarks.

Twelve open-air concerts we shared FREE to the public, including a musical theater rendition of Wizard of Oz, youth orchestra, choir, and piano.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

Enduring Understanding: Analyzing creators’ context and how they manipulate elements of music

Core learning aspects included music theory, analysis and interpretation of music. In preparation, curriculum specialists and expert instructors selected skill appropriate music that introduce technique in both small and large group settings. Rehearsals were structured with a combination of group, individualized, and instrument specific training.

During the Summer Academy young musicians studied via group practice and instrument specific micro groups, a place where specialized skills were honed. Music skill progression occurred via practice, demonstration, and repetition. To increase striving for excellence and positive peer achievement, students were exposed to a visiting guest conductor from the North Idaho Philharmonia, plus additional guest artists and student interns.
Students groups focused on scales for warm ups, ear training and following conductor cues, as well as exploring new repertoire. Students practiced beginner-medium pieces in a variety of different styles and genres.

Finally, special focus was placed on music theory and the sequencing of techniques for developing performance skills. As a demonstration of learned progression, all groups convened together for multiple joint community performances.

At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:

“Ellie is a born performer, yet has suffered from stage fright and performance anxiety. Given her love of all music, dancing, performance, and the stage, seeing her become paralyzed with fear when it comes time to step in front of the audience has been painful. We have known it was hindering her joy and her growth, but haven’t known how to help her alleviate it.

Ellie’s experience with camp last summer was all-encompassing for her. We’d walk together after pick up each day, and she would be bubbling over with everything she had learned, be it a new phrase, ‘we were blocking scenes today, Mom!’ or something about set design…She was soaking up every drop of theater and music.

Then came the real challenge: Preparing for the performance in front of an audience. Ellie worked very hard at the rehearsals and at memorizing her lines in the evenings at home. She marveled at the costume room and the talent of one of the staff who altered costumes to fit each performer.

It was a great achievement for Ellie, to see her step into a role and shed the fears was exhilarating for her, and for me as her mom. MCS created a safe place for Ellie to overcome her fears and truly experience the joy of performing.” -Parent


The Conservatory is committed to developing the next generation of artists. One key aspect of the Summer Academy included two visiting student teachers, as well as two older teens, who served as class assistants.

Amelia assisted in choir and orchestra.

She shared as part of her end of program survey,

“[Music] helps push myself to be better. And the language that is music helps me create other conversation.”

Her aha skill was “learning how to encourage younger students.”

Her own development and critical thinking ability is also demonstrated when she added to the list of suggestions for next year, including (1) increasing the skill level of various songs to push student development, perhaps an acapella piece, (2) and creating additional outlined expectations for the peer mentors.

Amelia has returned to assist the Conservatory as a class assistant/intern during the school year.


(1) Two back to back, two week sessions provided excellent musicality for students, however instructors wisely requested an one-week break between sessions next year.

(2) The variety of offerings within each two week session, plus rotation of time between theory, group practice, sectional practice, an artistic or new instrument “break” worked well. Blocks of activities and learning on rotation kept attention spans and the variety allowed orchestra students to sing, or theater students to try guitar.

(3) Incorporating the visual arts is in its second year. This addition is a keeper for the future. Each year, we partner with local artists to develop an aspect of art within music. We must lend a shout out to the Pend Oreille Arts Council for helping us build our street-side Music Library as part of the Instrument Art Factory project! The library houses sheet music, available to those wishing to play our outdoor community piano. The piano is played regularly by passers by.

(4) We will hire a professional photographer next year to improve our photo submissions.