back to Reports

Summer Music Camp

Music Conservatory of Sandpoint

Music Inspires! In July/August (2016), the Music Conservatory of Sandpoint, hosted its fourth annual Young Artist Exchange Program with visiting students and musicians from Mexico as part of two; 5 Day Summer Camps. 53 students attending these week long intensives, offering both full and half day camp options in downtown Sandpoint.

Our community and grant supported Orchestra and Choir Camps provided quality and affordable music instruction to school age students with a focus on music as the unifying element. Our programs put students in charge of an instrument or their own voice, and expose them to guest conductors and visiting mentor students. This outreach effort has much to offer across diverse population boundaries and builds bridges sharing the universal language of music.

In 2016, students participated in either Youth Orchestra or Choir/Voice Camp for 5 Days back to back, culminating in three free community concerts, including a final performance at the historic Panida Theater.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

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

Student experiences included group practice, instrument specific (violin, percussion, woodwinds, and brass) break outs, and one on one instruction. Music skill progression occurred via practice, demonstration, and repetition. Students were exposed to professional musicians and trained music educators who conveyed the meaning of a composer’s work and music theory. Special focus is placed on sequencing techniques for developing performance skills. As a demonstration of learned progression, all groups convened together for a joint community performance.

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 including, classical, traditional styles from Mexico, and a popular piece.

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

Participating students in all ensembles worked towards increased skill building, demonstrating performance at the end of the second week. Skills advanced included music theory review and performance skill development; focusing primarily on playing and singing with vibrancy! Not only did campers succeed, but the pieces required more than a basic understanding of music, and a high expectation was set to ensure appropriate concert etiquette and attire at all performances.

Professional and student mentors in each performance group captured teaching and skill improvement opportunities throughout each of the 5 days. Student-teacher ratios were less than 10:1 to allow for personal training. Modeling encouraged junior students in performance skills and in the real-life preparation skills such as how to turn pages and not lose your pace, plus the ability to work collectively created a joint sound.

As a supplement, mentors and more advanced students attended Master Classes giving progressing music students additional hand’s on personal recommendations of professional performers and instructors who would otherwise be unavailable to learn from.

Finally, students played games during the week to encourage increased knowledge of composers, exposure to musical terms/symbols, rhythm, and orchestral instruments, etc. The week concluded with a live performances to showcase accomplishments (see attached “final performance” photo).


Summer Music Camps have run successfully for four years due to the collaborative efforts of over a dozen artists from our region. In Year 4, the publicity of these camps with the bilingual and cultural opportunity attracted the volunteer services of music teachers throughout the region, including two bilingual conductors from the El Sistema music program in Spokane to help for the entire week, Raul Simon Romero Ramirez and Jose Andres Briceno Guzman.

This excellent pianist and master clarinetist helped to take the experience of campers to the next level, and increase the availability of 1 on 1 talented mentorship. Plans for future collaboration between the Sandpoint Camps and the Spokane after school program are already in the works. Music truly is a universal language.

Goals for the camp were consistent, as over 30 percent of the Youth Orchestra participants borrowed a free instrument. Choir students were introduced to basic music theory across instrument groups, and incorporation of movement and song were at times used to bridge the gap for young learners. The capstone achievement culminated in a joint community concert at the historic Panida Theater. This concert was provided free to the public.


By Greek definition, the word “art” means “skill.” Perfecting art requires time and dedication. Choir Director and Orchestra mentor John Fitzgerald highlighted the transformative power of positive mentorship during camp. He captures it this way, “It is truly remarkable that students, with very little exposure to a piece of music on Day 1, can advance to the degree that they have as a group. Then students are provided a performance experience, which brings things together. And the reason that this skill progression can occur is due to the mentoring that happens throughout Camp.” Sitting side by side, younger students and the more advanced students, plus professional musicians, have hourly input on student development.

Not only do students develop in such a short time, but MCS Camps help bridge the learning gap during a time when many students sit at home. MCS Summer Music Camps are providing students with student mentorship, music as a unifying element across cultures, and are enhancing community arts availability through three concerts and two camps. Thank you for supporting musical exchange in North Idaho!