8 considerations when choosing a summer music camp

Instructors, ensembles, environment, and other factors make all the difference between “fine” and “fantastic” experiences.

Three violinists rehearse on a bench

Every year, dozens of new programs join the ever-expanding selection of summer camps. With so many options available, the difficulty isn’t finding a camp that matches your interests—it’s choosing the right one for you.

For young musicians, the choice is especially difficult: there are hundreds of incredible summer music programs, each with their own pros and cons. Here are a few things to consider as you choose where you’ll spend your summer:

1. Intensity. There’s a big difference between a laid-back band camp and a competitive drum-and-bugle corps. As you’re choosing a camp, ask yourself what kind of experience you want. Are you looking for a casual camp with plenty of time for hanging out with friends and enjoying other non-musical activities? Or do you want an intensive program that focuses solely on music? Your answer to that question will guide the rest of your search.

2. Instructors and conductors. Many professional musicians list their primary teachers in their biographies. That’s because your ‘musical pedigree’ says a lot about who you are as a musician. Faculty is one of the most important elements to consider when choosing a camp. Do some research on the instructors teaching your instrument and conductors leading the ensembles to ensure you’ll get the most out of your experience. If you can’t decide, ask your private instructor or ensemble director which artists’ styles and careers best match your aspirations.

3. Repertoire. Sure, it can be argued that all musical works offer some educational merit. But you’ll get the most enjoyment and benefit out of your camp experience if you’re excited about the repertoire. Summer programs are also a great way to gain familiarity with masterworks that you’re likely to see again at the college or professional level.

4. Ensembles. Just like repertoire, all ensembles are terrific opportunities for hands-on learning. However, camps are a great chance to explore ensembles that aren’t available at your school or to take a deep dive into a particular area of interest, such as jazz ensemble or string quartet. Think about what types of ensembles you’d like to participate in as you begin your camp search.

5. Performance opportunities. At nearly every music camp, you’ll perform in at least one concert. The type and frequency of these performances varies greatly by camp: Some programs offer weekly performances, while others prepare you for one end-of-session concert. In more advanced programs, you may also participate in chamber concerts, solo recitals, or concerto competitions.

6. Location and environment. Whether you’re looking for an artistic retreat or a metropolitan immersion, there’s a perfect program for you. Rural camps are a great way to unplug and focus on your art, while urban programs offer a variety of cultural activities. Differences in location also usually mean a difference in housing options. Country camps usually feature cabin-style housing. City-based camps often utilize college dormitories for student housing. If you think you might get homesick, a day program or a sleep-away camp near your home may be the right choice.

7. Duration. Today’s students are busier than ever—even in the summer. Whether you’re trying to squeeze a music program between your activities or looking for a month-long getaway, you’ll find a plethora of options. Many institutions have a variety of session lengths and dates to fit your schedule.

8. Food options. The food you eat at camp will fuel your summer. Since you’ll be eating three meals a day, the quality of the cafeteria can make a big difference in how much you enjoy your summer experience. If it’s important to you, look for a camp that provides fresh or even local options in their cafeteria, as well as accommodation for any allergies or sensitivities you might have. 

Discover a variety of music programs for students grades 3-12 at camp.interlochen.org.