This is the time of year when parents and children start thinking about summer camp. Will you send your child to the same camp they’ve attended many summers in a row, or will you choose a more specialized camp this year? There are many out there to pick from—day camps, travel camps, sports camps, educational camps—all with their own advantages and unique attributes, but if your child has shown any interest in the arts, choosing a music, dance, theatre or art camp is the way to go.
According to the American Camp Association, arts camps fuel self-expression and youth development. Susan Kalman, theatre arts director for the Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center (SJJCC) in East Hills, knows this to be true. In collaboration with New York City acting studio Class Act NY, the SJJCC offers a one-week Broadway theatre camp taught by dedicated and hardworking Broadway actors to any child with the desire to act.
Some kids do not have a background in performing before they enter the camp. “The goal is for them to feel good about what they’re doing, and accomplished, and successful, no matter what their skill set is, or level of experience,” said Kalman.
Theatre camp teaches performance skills that will translate to the real world later in life. “Whether it’s an oral presentation at school, or certainly when they graduate and they’re in the workforce, they have to speak to people and have to be clear and present with clarity and expression,” Kalman said. Theatre camp doesn’t just teach children how to perform, it teaches them how to communicate.
“Everything is tied to the arts,” said Reva Cooper, director of Public Information for Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts in Wheatley Heights. Since 1968, Usdan has been the largest arts camp on Long Island, offering the most variety, and has been home to many talented and ambitious students.
“We have more and more expanded the definition of the arts,” Cooper said. “We feel that the arts develop children as a whole. It enriches their lives.”
Art League of Long Island’s Summer Art Adventure camp gives kids a solid two weeks to study, practice and immerse themselves in art. “It is absolutely important to be inspired by the things we see and…convert what’s in our imagination into a piece of art,” said executive director Charlee Miller.
So little time is dedicated to art in schools, a child with a talent or passion for art may be left wanting for more. At the summer art adventure, they can get submerged in doing artwork for hours every day. “They get exposed to art and different mediums, and textures and things that they don’t normally get in the classroom,” Miller said.
“Children talk to one another through music,” at the Music Institute of Long Island (MILI), said co-founder Geri Kushner.
“The best part is you have the time to really study without pressure of school,” Kushner said. The intensive program is a lot of fun and worthwhile. “Taking lessons in the summer, you learn almost as much as during the year because you have time. It is incredible.” Kushner suggested that the kids learn faster in this environment.
Students develop a love and appreciation for chamber music, instrumental music played by a small ensemble, which has never been known to top the pop charts. “The music that we’re picking, the coaches love as well,” Kushner said. “And expressing it to the children…is so much fun.”
Kushner has found that even shy students have come out of their shells because they have to learn to carry their own part. “We have to hear their voice in their instrument, and it has to be balanced. All of this brings out their self-esteem,” she said.
The Madison Theatre at Molloy College in Rockville Centre has operated music and theatre summer programs for children and teens for the past four years. Artistic Director Angelo Fraboni explained, “In the professional world, you have music you have to play that night. You have to sight-read really well. We train kids in real world experience.”
The benefits extend to students not planning to perform professionally as well. Studying performance arts gives students the self-confidence to sell themselves as a person and strengthens communication skills with those around them—with parents, teachers and eventually employers. “The business world loves to hire actors because they are confident and know how to handle themselves in stressful situations,” Fraboni added.
“The arts are everywhere,” he stated. “They permeate our lives.” It is beneficial for all to tap into that part of humanity. “Like architecture—until you study it, you don’t recognize it’s amazing,” Frabroni said. “We are bombarded by advertising and marketing, the visual. Until you actually…learn something, [you can’t] sort through…the clutter to find the real art.”
Being exposed to the arts helps kids appreciate the art all around them at an early age. It boosts self-confidence and communication skills. Attending an arts camp allows students the time to dedicate to their passion and a nurturing environment to develop their abilities. Arts camps provide meaningful and lasting benefits for children—exactly what you want out of a camp.