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Summer Institute for Piano and Strings

Idaho State Civic Symphony Association

The ISCS Summer Institute for piano and strings serves the entire area of Pocatello-Chubbuck, Idaho, including over 400 students that are involved in the Pocatello-Chubbuck School District String Program. In collaboration with Idaho State University faculty, any student that plays a stringed instrument or piano- from beginner to senior in high school- is eligible to participate in one of four camp options: Junior Strings, Senior String, Dual Piano/Strings, and Piano. Faculty work with students throughout the week to engage in new styles, techniques, and groups within music. All students are given the opportunity to rehearse and perform in our state of the art concert hall and fine arts building throughout the week. The Summer Institute furthers string education within our community and builds a stronger relationship between the public school programs and University programs.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

How can students make meaningful connections and develop their musicianship?

Throughout the week, students will embody several anchor standards. Below are the anchor standards that the Summer Institute focuses on:

Creating, Anchor Standard #2: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
Students work with faculty throughout the week, generating ideas and discovering the best way to convey meaning within their piece of music.

Performing/Producing, Anchor Standard #5: Develop and refine artistic work for presentation.
At the end of the week, students are given the opportunity to perform in the Jensen Concert Hall, debuting the piece that they will work on throughout the duration of the camp. The goal is to give students the opportunity to define for themselves what ‘concert ready’ means and how that shapes their preparation of the music.

Responding, Anchor Standard #7: Perceive and analyze artistic work.
Not only do students perform their works, they are part of the audience aspect during the week. Students have to go beyond what they are preparing and apply that knowledge to what they listen and see from other students and faculty members.

Connecting, Anchor Standard #10: Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art.
The entire week is an opportunity for students to understand and comprehend music in a new and different way. Students and faculty immerse themselves into the theme of the week, creating deeper understanding within music.

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. 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 often most helpful, activities to continue their journey in music.

Even past the focus of music, building relationships is a fundamental part of what makes the Institute a success. The connections built throughout the week are a testament to maintaining a positive and healthy learning environment.


The focus on folk music throughout the week allowed students and faculty to have meaningful discussions on the impact this style of music has had throughout music history. Exploring folk music intensively allowed students to form stronger connections from their knowledge to the actual application of that knowledge. Students are not just playing music; they are building context and meaning behind what they are playing. These kinds of connections- cognitive, emotional- are what students take and use throughout the rest of their lives.


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. The standards are continually being raised, from the quality of performances to the types of classes offered. Although there is still room for improvement, the model of the camp can accommodate changes without completely changing the foundations. Being objective about what worked and what didn’t work allows us to anticipate our needs and be more prepared for next year. Continuing to communicate clearly and work as an effective faculty team will further raise the set standards and provide students with a positive, rewarding experience.