Youth connect with culture through summer music camp

By: Michelle Brownridge June, 2013

In July 2012, over 80 youth from Regina and Saskatoon participated in a first of its kind summer music camp.

Carol Donhauser, executive director, Saskatchewan music Festivals Association, explains how, "students had the opportunity to try seven different instruments [violin, guitar, piano, percussion, band, as well as First Nations storytelling and hand drumming]," explains Donhauser. "They spent the first day or two experimenting with each instrument or technique before focusing their efforts to learn one instrument in particular. On the last day, a large gala concert took place with family, friends, sponsors, board members and other stakeholders in attendance."

The camp was initially conceived in a partnership between Saskatchewan orchestral Association, Saskatchewan Choral Federation, Saskatchewan music Festivals Association, the Dream Brokers Program, and SaskCulture.

The four-day program was considered a great success. One camp participant said it best: "my favourite part was the final performance”, he says. “I played the keyboard and next year I want to try the violin. This was the best camp I ever went to!”

Nichole Orr is currently working as a Dream Broker in Saskatoon. "The purpose of the Dream Broker Program is to help connect youth and their families to various sport, culture and recreation opportunities," she explains. "There is still a disconnect between inner-city youth and cultural activity," she says. "We are trying to bridge that gap and the music camp was an excellent chance for the kids we work with to experience culture first hand."

Saskatoon Camp Coordinator, Adam Jacks, was impressed by the students’ final performance. "They really held their own on stage, and I am saying that from the point of view of a professional musician," he says. "They did such a fine job performing for being so young and inexperienced. For some of the students, participating in this camp was the first time they picked up an instrument and by the final concert, three days later, they were playing entire songs." He adds that, “the music flowed so effortlessly, it was incredible!”

Orr recognized the benefit of the camp for the youth she works with right from the start. "Even if they don't continue to pursue music after the camp, we hope this one opportunity can perhaps spark some interest in music later on in life," she says. "We want to give our students the chance to try as many different sport, culture and recreation activities as possible, especially at a young age," adds Orr. "The camp provided a different avenue to experience an aspect of the arts a lot of kids never get to experience."

Plans are already in the works to hold the camps again in 2013. Donhauser explains, "It was evident afterwards that the program was needed in the communities. In fact, we are going to be offering the camp in Prince Albert this year." organizers are also working on efforts to help students become involved in music programming all year. "The responsibility to ensure students become involved with music lies with all of the parties involved; the organizing committee, stakeholders, and Dream Brokers," she says. "Ongoing communication needs to take place to ensure the long-term impact for students.”