Helpful tips and funny thoughts from a musician's mind

How a summer camp helped me see the FUN in violin lessons

How a summer camp helped me see the FUN in violin lessons

In last week’s post, I said that I did not start playing violin in a community-oriented way until I had been in private lessons for thirteen years. That’s a partial truth.

My middle school and high school did not have onsite music programs, so until I joined a local orchestra at age 16, I really hadn’t played in a formal group setting. However, there were two brief, awesome exceptions to that statement: when I was in fourth and fifth grade, one of my former violin teachers ran a weeklong violin day camp.

I can honestly say — no hyperbole! — that those day camps were game changers for me. 

Most of the camp activities were fun, simple things. We tried to count how many times we heard “da da da DUM” in Beethoven’s 5th Symphony (it’s a big number), learned about classical music in cartoons, made bad music puns during snack time, and did all sorts of fun activities. I also remember candy; the teacher clearly had her priorities in line!

However — and most importantly — we put our music stands in a little cluster one day and took a stab at playing a concerto written for four violins and a cello. We were pre-teens with fairly little experience, so obviously, our efforts were a bit shabby. I don’t think we even finished one page of the song. But I do remember being wowed by the few moments when the music sounded…. well, musical!…. and at that point, I fell completely in love with playing in groups.

Before that camp, I had no idea that people could just get together and play a five-part song for fun. I especially didn’t know it was possible for five KIDS to come together, play five different sheets of music, and sound great in the process!

Why did those camps make such an impression on me as a fourth-and-fifth grader?

Probably because they were so different than formal lessons. There was no homework, no hours of practice to log, and nobody to impress…just a week to make new friends, have fun, and make music. During the school year, music was work. At camp, it was play — and honestly, I think kids need that work-play balance in music just as much as they do in any other context of life.

In my experience, the students who stick with their instruments long-term are the ones who truly enjoy it. If it’s all play, they won’t ever learn good technique…but if it’s all work, they’ll never see it as something to love.

If you’re thinking about putting your child in a music-themed day camp, I strongly suggest you go for it. Fifteen years ago, as a student, music camps truly changed my perspective on violin lessons… and today, as a violin teacher, I can see the payoff!


To register for summer strings camps at Learning Allegro, visit our website.

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