Summertime, and the Arts Camping Is Busy

Arts / Article

Members of the SoBe Arts Youth Chamber Ensemble play during a fund-raiser last month in Miami Beach. (Photo by Tomas Loewy) The old tradition of sending the kids away to camp during the summer might not be as prevalent as it used to be, but the idea of spending some downtime during the hot months experiencing something new is just as strong as it ever was.

There are a number of places for students young and old to pursue the arts this summer in short, intense immersion experiences, including at the University of Miami and the SoBe Institute of the Arts.

Looking at the SoBe programs, there are courses in musical theater, dance, acting and music, and they’re designed for all ages. Students at the camps can get private study and public performance opportunities, would-be Broadway stars can get advice on how to be a singing, dancing and acting “triple threat,” and learn modern and traditional dance.

I’m sure most of the camp students will be younger people, but speaking from purely anecdotal sources, it seems to me there are many more adults going for summer camp-style gatherings than there were not all that long ago. Our culture is so full of examples of people pursuing artistic expression that after a while there’s a good deal of pressure to really see whether you are hiding a slumbering Monet or Mozart within. And the SoBe programs offer you a chance to find out.

Over at UM, there is the Young Musicians’ Camp, in which students from elementary to high school age can take courses in piano, jazz, rock, voice and classical music, which in this latter case means orchestral and chamber music performance. I particularly like the idea of rock camp; I always enjoyed playing this kind of music because the bands I played in were so casual, but rhythm classes in a rock camp demonstrate that the quest for excellence and professionalism is always with us.

The Web page for this camp talks about getting kids together in a rich, nurturing environment to go through their musical paces. That environment is probably the most important thing. Many years ago, I worked in a summer theater youth camp organized by our local park district as a music director, and it was fascinating to see how people changed in that short period from the first to the last day. It was more than the experience of theater, more than the music, and more than the excitement of being with a bunch of new friends.

What it was all about was encouraging habits of mind some of these people didn’t know they had, and demonstrating how basic the arts are to our lives. You don’t know how well you can express yourself through these forms unless you get a chance, and there are not that many people as a percentage who do this on their own.

It’s been my experience that most people need to pursue music and the other arts in a group, and aren’t comfortable letting everything out that they can do unless they feel a lot of support from people around them. The lone artist creating for himself or herself Is a special breed, but the casual artist, the weekend composer, the part-time painter, appears only through some deeply felt need or is born in an experience such as a summer music and arts camp.

It’s not likely that most of the campers young and old this summer will go on to artistic careers, but there’s no doubt that for most of them the arts it will be an unforgettable source of spiritual nourishment that will go on as long as they live. That’s a good legacy for a summer camp to leave (sure beats a tick bite, anyway).