What’s All This Noise?

By Adam Issadore

A music-making program is any club, elective or activity that enables campers to learn and play musical instruments together.

It can be organized and taught by staff; informal and put together by campers; educational and taught by a hired professional; or a combination of these.

Although the program may evolve from year to year, the important thing is to implement one.

Among the benefits:

For campers

• Serves as an outlet for creativity
• Relieves stress
• Builds confidence
• Forms relationships
• Increases aptitude for learning
• FUN.

For directors

• Adds diversity to the activities offered
• Can be used in marketing materials
• Adds to camp culture and creates spirit
• Fills the need for an educational group activity
• Captivates the teen-camper population
• Provides an outlet for campers to creatively express themselves
• Provides an activity to curb boredom, which leads to fewer disciplinary problems.

An Ideal Environment For Creativity
Since children at camp tend to be less guarded emotionally than they are in school, they are also more likely to take risks and try new things.

With a diminished fear of being judged, campers can learn how to play an instrument as well as participate in a non-competitive, creative activity.

The Culture And Spirit Of Your Camp
Last summer, while I was an artist-in-residence at Liberty Lake Day Camp in New Jersey, the camp’s owner and director--Andy Pritikin--wrote a theme song for the camp.

The campers went wild for the song, which is now a part of the camp culture. It creates spirit and unity, and encourages campers to sing along. Best of all is that many campers seek out the staff to teach them how to play the song on the guitar.

What is unique about the culture of your camp? Take advantage of the opportunity to communicate your assets through music.

Get Started
When creating a music program, start simply, as you would with any other new activity or program.

Do present staff members have any musical talent? When hiring new staff members, be sure to consider whether they have any qualifications or experience that may be an asset to your music program.

Hire Staff From Music Colleges
Good news for camp directors: More young adults are attending colleges with excellent music programs. Just as you might hire a college student studying physical education to teach in the athletic program, hiring a counselor studying music is a resourceful way to start a program.

These students--eventually “graduates”--are a wonderful resource to establish a credible program and curriculum.

Mentoring Program
Have older campers buddy up with younger campers, and teach them how to play an instrument. The nature of learning music is one that is passed on, and the culture of summer camp lends itself perfectly to this.

Set up a meeting between campers and their mentor, and allow them time to merely sit and play together.

The younger campers tend to respond with enthusiasm because they are looking to the older campers as role models. The older campers begin to take on a sense of responsibility and value the time spent playing music with the younger campers.

With the bonds that form, campers especially enjoy “jamming” together.

Below are a few programming activities to get your music program started:

Glee Club
An informal chorus moderated by a staff member.

This one is a no-brainer, given the popularity of the TV series by the same name.

Camp Rock Bands
Experienced campers learn cover songs together. They practice to put on a performance for the entire camp.

Utilize staff musicians to supplement the bands.

Songwriting Elective
Bring out the acoustic guitars, hire a singer-songwriter counselor, and watch the campers flock to learn from a cool college student.

Organize informal performances for campers at an evening activity campfire to showcase what they have been working on.

Hand Drumming And Drum Circle
Drumming is the easiest way for a group to make music together. Invest in hand drums, and have an area designated for a drumming activity, led by a staff person.

This is also a great team-building activity for the staff. In addition, drumming adds high energy to all-camp spirit events.

Recording And Music Production
If you have a computer room for campers, this is probably taking place already. There are many easy-to-use music-recording programs, and campers will need minimal guidance in using them.

What is important, however, is to provide a platform for them to be inspired and to showcase their creativity.

Adam Issadore is an educator, professional musician and a summer-camp guy. He is the founder of Path To Rhythm Group Drumming Programs, a company that combines his passion for drumming with his love of summer camp. Contact him via email at adam@pathtorhythm.com, or visit www.pathtorhythm.com.