Week Eight marks the departure of the last of the School of Music students from the grounds, but the performance halls are far from empty: An even younger batch of musicians has come to learn.
Throughout the past week, nearly 100 students in middle school and high school, between the ages of 10 and 18, have participated in the annual Chautauqua Music Camps. They have worked with professional musicians to prepare for a slew of performances today and Saturday.
“If you teach music correctly, you’re teaching students how to teach themselves,” said Peter Lindblom, executive director of the Chautauqua Music Camps. “How to model, how to use other students as the model for their own improvement — putting kids in that position, they step up to the plate … and it’s just exponential growth.”
The program, which started more than 20 years ago, is made up of three camps: the Middle School Band Camp, the Chautauqua Jazz Camp and the Chautauqua Orchestra Camp, which is made up of both middle school and high school students. Altogether, the students will put on seven performances across the grounds today and Saturday.
Student chamber music ensembles will perform at noon on Friday, August 16, on Bestor Plaza, and at 3:30 p.m. today in McKnight Hall. The students in the Jazz Camp will play at 2 p.m. on Friday, August 16, in Fletcher Music Hall, and the orchestra students will play at 8:50 a.m. in the Amphitheater with Organist and Coordinator of Worship and Sacred Music Jared Jacobsen. At 10 a.m. Saturday in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, the orchestra students will have their final concert, and at noon Saturday — also in Lenna Hall — the middle school band students will have theirs.
The camps don’t require the kids to audition in order to attend, so there is a wide range of skill levels in the musicians who come for the week. Some of them have been playing for years; others have just begun. Having that variety is both beneficial and challenging.
“That ability to associate and mix with people from all different levels and musical abilities — you don’t get that in a public school,” Lindblom said. “We follow that Chautauqua model of inclusiveness, and through inclusion like this, we enrich the kids’ musical experience in a way they could never see otherwise.”
One of the most difficult things for the directors is to choose a repertoire that is challenging to the students, but isn’t too much for the less-experienced players to learn in a week, said Terry Bacon, director of the Middle School Band Camp.
Sometimes this requires improvisation once the students arrive and show what they’ve got; this year, Bacon said, his students were more advanced than he anticipated, and he was able to delve into more complex and sophisticated musical concepts with them.
“It’s figuring out what is an appropriate level, with enough variety to give educational opportunities,” Bacon said.
The chamber music performances test the students’ musical mettle; without a conductor to direct them, they have to make the musical decisions themselves and figure out how to work together.
Although they have coaches to help them through the rehearsal process, in the final shows they are on their own.
“That is a very unique set of skills,” Bacon said. “You really learn how to be a musician in a chamber ensemble. You have the music, and then you as a group have to decide how to proceed.”
Campers get to work with musicians of a high caliber; the directors and coaches of the groups include faculty from the Eastman School of Music, The Juilliard School and the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra. It’s an intense week; the kids and conductors have less than five days to make sure everything comes together. But on the other side of it all, they are stronger musicians.
“I hope they grow as musicians and continue to be musical humans for the rest of their lives,” Bacon said.