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School of Music

BYU Music Camps: An Accelerated Lesson in Taking It Slow and Making It Real

BYU Students & Faculty Mentor Teen Musicians Through University Music Camps

As spring became summer, high school musicians became more university-ready through BYU’s Musician’s Summer Institutes and Festival. About 50 teens gathered on the first Friday of summer to create music under the direction of Shawn Smith, associate professor in BYU’s School of Music. Smith directed with vigor, smiling as he encouraged students with, “Be mentally energized from beginning to end and you will be great,” the occasional joke, and a “Ba, ba, ba,” to the beat in a way that was almost scat singing. Encouraging words outnumbered correcting ones with “Good” being heard frequently along with the occasional redirect such as, “If you get lost, use your ears and find us. This is performance.” It was the last day of camp before the final performance for friends and family. Some students were locals spending eight hours a day on the university campus they had driven by every day. Others were from as far as Asia and Europe, boarding in campus dorms while enjoying sectional and ensemble performance opportunities, lessons in literature, elective classes and a faculty recital.

BYU Musician’s Summer Festival is one of three music camps at the university. There is BYU Musician’s Institute, an instrumental camp that requires an audition, and BYU Choral and Vocal Institute, which is in its second summer. All the camps have university faculty as instructors. Vocal students had the soprano and BYU School of Music director, Diane Reich, instructing them along with Shea Owens, director of opera at BYU. All three camps are under the direction of Mark Ammons, assistant director of the School of Music and director of BYU Musicians’ Institute and Summer Festival.

“It is amazing how the group creates such a strong community in just five days,” said Liz Reading, a BYU graphic design student and student supervisor for the Musician’s Summer Festival. She said some students do get homesick but overall, the camp experience is a positive one. Reading has been working with the festival for three years, having started as a camp counselor. “You do something different every day,” she said. “You never know what will happen next.”

Meghan Hendershot, a program coordinator with the camp, said, “It is wonderful to see students accomplish so much.” Hendershot, a student in BYU’s psychology program, said the high school students learn “a lot of important skills, including problem-solving.”

“These are wonderful experiences for young musicians to experience BYU, learn about music in an intense but very supportive environment and work with world-class faculty-artists,” Smith said. “It is also very valuable for them to be able to connect with other students from all over the country who share a common musical interest. Not to mention that it is just a whole lot of fun. I love seeing the students interact, laugh and make music together. There is nothing better than music to bring people together.”

The same day that Smith directed instrumentalists for the final performance, Reich instructed vocalists in the minutia that make the final performance seamless. In addition to the expected instruction in other parts of the institute — such as breath support, articulation and tone — vocalists were instructed in how to enter and exit the stage, transition smoothly with the previous and next performers and present themselves and their music with gratitude and aplomb.

“Show gratitude and humility in your bow,” Reich said. “Tomorrow, your audience is your support system. Take it slow. Make it real.”

Ammons said this year was an “amazing” one for camps with record enrollment (130 students accepted to the institute and more than 370 to the festival). “The level of musicianship just keeps rising and more and more young people are interested in participating,” he said. “It is such an extraordinary experience for these high school students to spend a week or two with our world-class faculty. We hope more students will discover our camps and come join us for great music-making experiences."

School of Music Director Diane Reich Teaches Vocalists How to Bow in BYU Vocal and Choral Institute
Photo by Rebecca Packard/CFAC External Relations