Westminster’s camps strike the right notes

Students of the vocal institute program serenade the audience at Princeton University’s chapel.

By Nicole Veenstra

Walking to class on the weekdays, chowing down on dining hall food and sharing a dorm room with another person is the typical experience of a college student. However, with summer programs offered on both the Westminster and Lawrenceville campuses, children can experience college life long before SATs are taken and majors are chosen.

“I think [the summer programs] are an incredible way for students to advance their skills while enjoying the community of making music with other musicians of a similar caliber,” said Dr. Amanda Quist, assistant professor of conducting and instructor for the vocal institute, chamber choir and choral festival camps.

Westminster offers a variety of summer camps for middle and high school students, with everything from organ instruction to music composition. Programs are also offered throughout the year for the general public, including lessons and classes for musicians, singers and composers of any age.

“We have something for everyone,” said Scott Hoerl, who works with both the conservatory and continuing education programs at Westminster. “Our mission is that we feel every person benefits from exposure to music so we try to provide that exposure.”

Days are composed of classes and lessons, with a final performance for parents and the community to showcase what the students have learned during their stay.

One specific program Hoerl is especially excited for is appropriately named “Try It Out.”

Hoerl said the program is not exclusively for children without previous musical experience, but rather for children interested in an instrument they have yet to get their hands on. He also said it is a good way for parents to see if their child really wants to stick with the instrument, or if it is a transient interest that will fade away after the first lesson is paid for.

“It’s an opportunity for the student to try it to see if they have an aptitude for [the instrument] and have an interest in it,” Hoerl said. “With music, as with anything, if you don’t put the time in you’re not going to improve.”

Instructors come from all over to help students acquire a deeper understanding of their interests in the music field, whether they are focusing on instruments, voice or both. Past students of the programs are given the opportunity to return as camp counselors.

Sophomore Yoanna Akis, majoring in vocal performance at Westminster, took advantage of the opportunity of experiencing both sides of the camps. She attended the solo vocal institute the summer before her senior year of high school and returned this past summer to work with students from both solo vocal institute and vocal institute, which has a choral emphasis.

“The experience gave me a taste for what college life in music would be like and what the necessary steps would be to become a professional musician,” she said. “I think the same could be said for many of my campers from this summer. As for [the] others, the experience helped them realize that music is not what they want to be doing at this point in their lives, which is equally important.”

Hoerl agrees, saying that music can benefit everyone, whether they end up becoming musicians or not.
For those who do decide to commit themselves to music, the summer camps offer them a chance to feel out the atmosphere of Westminster and interact with potential professors before making a decision about their future.

“I think it’s an absolutely wonderful program,” said Sam Brukhman, a freshman music education major. “It’s actually what helped me decide to go to Westminster.”

Akis shared similar feelings with Brukhman, crediting her growth as a person and musician to Westminster’s summer camps.

“[The camps] have helped shape me into the person I am and have inspired my passion for music further,” she said.

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