"You want your kid to be passionate about something, whether it be sports, scouts, dance or whatever. School of Rock does this for my son. We have discovered a talent we didn't know he had. My son would live at School of Rock if he could. We've already recommended the program to several friends."
If you have a child between 8 and 14 years old chances are he is asking to go to music camp.
With all the music camps to choose from how do you know which camp is right for YOUR child?
Here are 10 tips to help you select the right music camp for YOUR child.
1. Why does your child want to go to music camp? If your child is participating in a beginner music camp to see if it is something she likes, think about the potential “next step” after camp. If you might want to continue with music lessons after camp consider a music camp that is managed by a local business so that your son can continue learning from the same teacher(s) he got to know in camp. If she is going to music camp because she wants to play in a band, does the camp offer a year-round program with a performance component that she could enroll in after camp?
2. Type of music. There are many different genres of music. One music camp may focus on jazz while another focuses on rock music. Be sure you ask. If your daughter doesn’t like jazz music, she won’t enjoy the experience.
3. The staff. Some teachers are educators. Others are musicians. Musicians tend to have more “street cred” with the kids. Will your young musician enjoy camp more with teachers or with musicians and how does that match up with the background of the instructors?
4. Accountability. Does your child want to learn something at music camp or is it just something to do during the day while you work? Whichever answer it is for you and your child, be sure that matches up with the expectations of the camp.
5. Individual attention. Individual attention is critical for a student’s ability to learn as a musician. What is the student-to-teacher ratio in the music camp you are considering? Also ask if the instructors are with the campers at all times. I know of one music camp that has the kids work together in a group for hours at a time with no teacher in the room because the instructor is going from room to room and group to group.
6. Skill level required to participate. One of the most frustrating experiences for a young musician is to be in a group with other kids who are at a different level of experience. If your child is a beginner and there are more advanced kids in her group she feels like she’s holding the group back. If your child is advanced and there are beginners in the group, he gets bored. Question how the campers are grouped in any music camp you consider.
7. Academic approach or playing approach? Some music camps teach through a music education curriculum which means your child learns the elements of playing an instrument before actually playing a song. Others teach the elements through teaching songs from the beginning. Neither is right or wrong. It’s simply which style is best for YOUR child.
8.Who runs/owns the camp? Some music camps are “traveling camps” which rent space in your town and hire local people to run the camps. Other camps are offered by established music schools in your community with their year-round teachers running the camps. I believe there’s more accountability with the latter. After all, you can’t “return” your camp experience if your child doesn’t like it and chances are you won’t be able to get into a different camp that same week if your child is having a less-than-desirable experience.
9. Time commitment to music camp. Are you looking for a one- or two-week camp? Are you looking for an all-day or a half day music camp? If camp is over before you get off work, what arrangements can you make for your child to stay at camp until you are finished working?
10. Specialization. Are you looking for a guitar camp, specifically, or a music camp which includes guitar? Both have their benefits. I believe specialization is the way to go for beginners because everything discussed at camp helps them learn how to play the guitar. Specialization is also valuable for those young musicians wanting to significantly advance their instrument playing ability over the summer. If the kids are going to music camp to meet and play with other musicians then a multi-instrumental music camp is the way to go.
There are no right or wrong answers. The thing that makes it “right” is how it matches up to what you and your child are looking for. Selecting the right music camp for your child can mean the difference between a lifelong interest in playing a musical instrument and never picking up an instrument again. Learning is supposed to be fun…..especially when learning to play music.