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Summer Institute for Piano and Strings

Idaho State-Civic Symphony Association

The ISCS Summer Institute for Piano and Strings (SIPS) serves the entire area of SE Idaho, including over 400 students that are involved in the School District String Program. In collaboration with Idaho State University faculty, any student that plays a stringed instruments or piano-from beginner in elementary school to senior in high schools-is eligible to participate in one of the five options: Jr. Piano, Jr. Strings, Sr. Piano, Sr. Strings, and Dual Piano/Strings. All Students are given the opportunity to rehearse and perform in our state of the art Jensen Grand concert hall and fine arts building through the week.

Our 2017 faculty list is below:
Dr. Hyeri Choi, Director of String Division, Violin/Viola, ISU
Dr. Kori Bond, Director of Piano Division, ISU
Dr. Eleanor Cox, Cello, ISU
Dr. Julie Sorenson, Sr. Orchestra Conductor, ISU
Kathryn Chojnacki, Jr. Strings Conductor, Pocatello area high school string educator
Lauren Folkner, Violin/Viola, Boise Philharmonic
Mr. Mark Neiwirth, piano
Laura Larson, Director Jr. Piano

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

Why do students need to understand fundamental techniques, and develop their practicing skills?

Throughout the week, students embody several anchor standards. Below are the anchor standards focused on:

Creating: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
Students work with faculty closely during the camp, improving their strong skills on the instruments, learning the basic techniques based on their weakness, realizing what students need, and generating the better ideas to approach their piece of music.

Performing/Presenting/Producing: Develop and refine artistic work for presentation.
Based on learning the basic tools, students are given the opportunity to perform in the Jensen Concert Hall, presenting and sharing their music in small and large groups. The goal is to provide students the chance to define for themselves what ‘concert ready’ means and how that shapes their preparation of the music.

Responding: Perceive and analyze artistic work.
It is very helpful and necessary to understand students’ work better by reading the background stories of them at least. This year the theme of the summer institute was “American Music”, and there was an American music history class. Students applied the knowledge from the lecture to what they play, listen, and see from other students and faculty members.

Connecting: Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art.
The entire week is an opportunity for students to comprehend music in a new and different way.

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

As stated above, four main anchor standards drive the Institute and how music is created by, performed by, responded to, and connected to students throughout the week. Based on a variety of conversations with students, we noticed that they always look for a good role model in their life. After the end of private lessons, rehearsals, and faculty concerts, lots of students indicated that they loved our faculty’s kindness, and enthusiasm for them. The interaction between students and faculty is very important for both of our institution and us. Sometime students learn a lot by observing their teachers. One of the students told us that he studied and experienced a lot during the faculty performances. We realized and learned as educators, we will be there always and do our best for our past, current, and future students. As students respond to the camp, we take those responses to develop our approach to the Summer Institute so that the following year can include the most meaningful and helpful activities to continue their journey in music.


“My son enjoyed SIPS so much this year! He came home with renewed enthusiasm for his piano studies and a new set of fairly lofty goals of what he’d like to achieve as a young pianist. He loved the chance to make friends with so many other talented young musicians and hopes he will be able to maintain lifelong friendships with some of the students and counselors he met during SIPS. Many of the skills he learned during masterclass are already helping him to practice more efficiently. He is already making plans to return next year.” – Kimberly Petersen, mother of Camp attendee Matthew Petersen


The string division Institute was very successful! Our significant project was to build students’ fundamental techniques including basic posture, bow grip, how to practice, and how to behave in a small group and an orchestra setting. We realized that students need special care on their individual playing first when we visited lots of schools to meet students for recruitment. That’s why we focused on the basic string techniques. The camp went really well this year, and for future years, the string division will have a different point for students’ learning.
For the future, the string division will need additional string faculty (violin or viola) to make better balance of the quality between students and faculty.We are starting to see the rewards of a strong, consistent program for students. Students come in knowing what to expect, and faculty have a better understanding of where to place a student for an optimal experience. Being objective about what worked and what didn’t work leads us to plan ahead our needs and be more prepared for next year. We are already very excited for our 2018 ISU Summer Institute for Piano and Strings!