Monday, May 10, 2010

Summer Instrumental Workshops...Get Creative!

By Mark T. Burke

"Hornapalooza", "Saxophonia", "Flutopia", call me a marketer, but I believe in giving summer musical events a catchy name.  "Music Camp" or "Summer Lessons" just seems outdated and boring. Along with a great, fun name, organizers have the opportunity to create a memorable music event using a few key focus points for planning the event.  Here's my list of creative ways to help organize creative summer events.

1.  Focus:  As teachers, we all have specialties.  Most likely in your region, if you've been out and about, meeting other teachers, playing in community ensembles and spreading your love for music, your peers will recognize you for your specialty.  The chances of all teachers in your area specializing in the same area of music are actually pretty slim.  Why not harness those specialties to create regional workshops for students that span across school district boundaries?  For example, if you are a mallet percussion expert, create a summer workshop series for mallet percussion students.  Spread the word through your network of peers and recruit kids from all over the region.

2.  Get Out:   Summer is a great time to get outside.  All areas have some type of recreation hot spot, a park or a local College or University that is not as busy during the summer.  Negotiate for the use of space for your camp. Think about the benefits of the environment being "different", refreshing, one that helps you create a desire to grow the event over the years.  The location can really help you attract students.

3.  Think Small: Small Ensemble that is.  Creating an event for individual students can be fun.  Forming a small ensemble of students, scheduling a series of rehearsals and a concert, now that can be powerful (and fun!).  Taking students out of their normal element is the key to attracting them.  If students feel the summer event is just the same old, same old, there will be less interest.  As an example, this year, viaAcademies in cooperation with the Keystone Saxophone Quartet will be hosting the Summer Saxophone Quartet Workshop 2010 (SSQW2010).  After announcing our plans, we quickly filled the 4 spots.  Over the next few years, we believe there is a ton of opportunity to provide this experience to more and more students each year.

4.  Format:  There's no right and wrong answer here, just choices.  Choose whether you want to hold the event over a series of days, like each day for a week, or spread out over the summer.  For our SSQW2010, we decided to have 4 Workshops spread out over the summer, ending with a combo concert in August.  Our model was chosen to adapt to busy summer schedules and to give the students time to practice the pieces in between Workshop days.

5.  Have a Plan:  Remember, you're the expert here.  This is your opportunity to pull out drills, teaching techniques, rehearsal skills, etc. that you may not be able to in your day to day efforts.  Create a plan for what you're going to pass on to the students.  Embrace this opportunity to take students, and yourself, out of the box, be experimental, but have a PLAN!  For example, if you're going to teach a specific breathing technique, have your approach down pat.  You may even want to have some documents for your students.  In the end, the goal of this event is to pass on expert advice, with you as the expert.  Keep that in mind.

6.  Keep Music Central:  Too many events fail when we try to offer too much.  My philosophy is that when getting things rolling, students can swim and play games in other locations, at other times.  For those of you who have created successful events with tons of kids, providing social activities probably makes sense.  For the most of us, when first starting out, keeping the core activities musical and leaving the social planning for years to come can help us get things rolling.  Summer events should be built first and foremost on their musical value for students.

How do you run your summer events?  What do you call them?  How do you market them?

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