We Serve Your Children
Three Milwaukee groups offer a wide variety of summer music and theater camps for kids.
There’s no shortage of arts opportunities for young people in Milwaukee this summer. Future thespians and musical virtuosos can hone their skills at a variety of camps offered by First Stage, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra. If nothing else, the programs are sure to keep your kids busy, while teaching them skills that may stay with them for life.
First Stage Summer Theater Academy
This is more than just a place to dabble in acting. “It’s a place for kids to grow as students,” says Academy Director Jennifer Adams. “The young actors gain life skills through stage skills. They become more confident.”
First Stage offers programs for students in all grades, from kindergarten to senior year of high school. The youngest students—K5 to second grade—can participate in Storymakers, a weeklong half-day program in which they bring storybooks to life with dialogue and improvisation. Or, for first and second graders, there’s the full-day Playmakers curriculum, incorporating theater games as well as improv.
Kids in grades three and up begin each day reciting the First Stage cheer: “I can’t is not in my vocabulary; I take risks; I conquer my fears; I am not afraid to lead!” After that burst of positivity, students take part in musical theater, scene study, voice and movement, Shakespeare, acting theory, and improvisation classes. The day ends much as it begins, with a convocation where the students reflect on their experiences and salute one another for their hard work. Adams says it’s a heartwarming—even tear-jerking—exchange to observe.
6th graders through 12th graders will discover something new for the summer of 2014—those in the four-week sessions may choose a “major” so they can devote time on a favorite subject: Improvisation, Musical Theater, or Shakespeare. Students with autism can look to First Stage as a judgment-free zone this summer. The Next Steps Program allows autistic youngsters to explore who they are as artists and people in a supportive environment. These one or two week sessions are lead by teaching artists and special education specialists.
Summer Theater Academy sessions begin June 16th and run until the end of August. Tuition costs range from $160 to $545 and each session is capped off with a final presentation.
Wisconsin Conservatory of Music’s Music Camps
Albert Smith, The Wisconsin Conservatory of Music’s Vice President of Marketing and Development, says, “Students who start with the Conservatory at an early age become hooked and stay with us for years to come.” And they can immerse themselves in music at camps that run from mid-June to mid-August.
Experienced and novice jazz lovers alike can partake in the 20th Annual Jazz Camp from June 23 – 27, a week-long immersion into jazz for middle and high school students that’s taught by Grammy Award winner Brian Lynch.
“Our faculty is well respected,” says Smith. “We have well over 100 teaching artists from all genres.”
The 4th Annual String Camp (July 21- 25) is perfect for 3rd through 9th graders who play the violin, viola, cello, or string bass. Students must have a minimum of two years of experience with their instrument and one year of note reading.
Rock-n-rollers can jam out at the inaugural Rock Camp from June 30 – July 3. Individuals and entire rock bands are encouraged to enroll. Young vocalists will be trained in choral singing, musical theater and classical music at the new Vocal Arts Camp from July 28 – August 1. And at the first Guitar Camp for Kids, 2nd through 6th graders will play in a guitar orchestra as well as learning about composition and rhythm.
The Conservatory’s camp sessions are kept at around 25 – 30 students, but they remain open until filled. Camp costs range from $295 to $425. Smith is eager to note the Conservatory is always seeking sponsors to help budding musicians. “$1,000 or more is enough to sponsor a student for an entire year,” he notes.
Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra’s Summer Programs
2014 marks the 10th anniversary of the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra’s Community Partnership Programs. The Progressions program is one of nine such programs, a two-year, high-intensity string training program for 3rd and 4th graders enrolled in Milwaukee Public Schools. Progressions seeks to serve disadvantaged and underrepresented urban and minority youth in Milwaukee. And the program is working—in 2013 100 percent of these students were accepted into one of the MYSO’s main orchestras.
“Our Community Partnership Program students encompass one third of our student body. The actual cost of the Progressions program is approximately $2,700 per student annually,” says MYSO Executive Director Linda Edelstein.
This summer the MYSO is offering four unique opportunities for Milwaukee kids to explore the world of music.
The Big Easy comes to the Brew City in the form of the New Orleans Jazz Stompers program. These are four-day (June 16-19 or 23-26) workshops where kids study the music and history of New Orleans. Brass Marches, French Quadrilles, Ragtime, Blues, and polyphonic improvisation are all part of this high-energy class. Each summer the MYSO’s Jazz Stompers perform throughout Milwaukee, even at Summerfest.
Woodwind, brass, percussion, and harp players must audition for the high-level Summer Wind Ensemble to be held from July 14-19. Especially skilled students may be invited to play in the Chamber Wind Ensemble, performing works by Mozart, Dvorak, and Beethoven.
The MYSO’s Jazz Guitar Ensemble runs from June 18 – August 6. These are small jazz combos, not a large band setting, and the students enjoy the opportunity to perform all over Milwaukee, from Bayshore Town Center to Washington Park and even Summerfest. Jazz Guitar students dabble in all styles of the music.
Edelstein stresses that the MYSO will continue accepting applications for all summer programs until the programs are filled.
All told, there’s a rich and varied season of summer arts programs available to Milwaukee’s kids, offering lots of fun and just possibly training some future Grammy, Oscar or Tony winners.