The thought of summer camp conjures up iconic images of swimming at the lake, or stories at the campfire, but that’s not what it’s about anymore.
Today, the trend for school-age children is to attend enrichment programs geared to educate while still having fun.
John Hunter, the program director for the College of Saint Rose summer academy has seen a “constant” evolution since he first headed the program 13 years ago. Each year, enrollment has surpassed the year before. The concept of offering a summer learning program was a unique concept a decade ago, now it’s “the thing to do,” said Hunter. This year, St. Rose plays host to 800 young students in the program.
“It means we’re doing something right,” he said.
Hunter described the mission of the academy as being “three-fold.” First order of business is to ensure that the students continue learning through the summer months and to keep their brains active. Second is to have fun, and third is to provide children with a positive experience on a college campus.
There are approximately 50 instructors, professionals, leaders and experts in fields such as ecology, engineering, green technology, physics, architecture, video and sound production.
For example, an aerospace engineering class teaches children about the principles of flight and what makes rockets and airplanes go up and stay in the air. Another class on roller coaster engineering goes into design with an online simulation, discussion, and a field trip to experience roller coasters in action.
Overit, a marketing firm out of Albany, hosted a class from the enrichment program for a week, showing students the art of sound production from their facilities on New Scotland Avenue. The theme for this week’s classes delved into the performing arts, including classes in theater writing, performance, acting, improvisation and dance skills. The marketing firm does business from a converted church, complete with stained glass windows still intact. Behind what was the worship hall, that now houses Overit’s operations, is a series of recording studios. Alison Krawczyk, a personal relations manager for Overit, explains how one local university used the facility for a recent marketing campaign, while next week a musician has planned to use the studios for recording.
More than a dozen high school students poured over the studio’s soundboard, working over and mixing various tracks of sounds recorded earlier in the week. It was Friday, their last day, so they got to listen to the fruits of their creativity.
Students left with an understanding of how to record and mix music using the same computer programs, microphones and equipment as professionals in the industry.
“If not for the first principle, the rest is out the door,” said Hunter. “It’s tough, but when you can find that balance [of learning and having fun] it’s magical. … Kids really resist against a traditional classroom setting in the summer months.”
Stepping into the limelight
The Jazz Institute at Proctors offers “phenoms-in-waiting” a chance to study, improvise and step out.
“We hope they take permission to step out into the limelight,” said first-year instructor Jeanine Ouderkirk.
The Jazz Institute at Proctors is led by pianist Lecco Morris and saxophonist Jeff Nania, working professionals with a wide array of experiences in nightclub and concert settings. Legendary baritone saxman Gary Smulyan—a veteran of Carla Bley, Dave Holland and Dizzy Gillespie big bands — were guest artists during the two week program that also included other perks. Recording clinics, audition tape recording, video viewing sessions, guided discussions by area professionals, a CD of the student’s work and a performance at the GE Theatre.
Unlike most genres of music, jazz allows performers to improvise and step away temporarily from the written work. Ouderkirk said much of a performance relies on trusting the other performers.
The overall theme, said Morris, is that jazz helps break the barriers people establish form themselves to think there are limitations that prevent ideas from flourishing.
“If every kid leaves knowing they can take music into their own hands, that’s what I’m trying to achieve here,” he said.
The final performance is Friday, Aug. 14, at 7 p.m. at the GE Theatre at Proctors. For enrollment or more information visit www.proctors.org/summer-programs, or contact Education Program Manager Jessica Johndrew Gelarden, by phone at 518.382.3884, ext.150.