Lutherans in Minnesota

The magic of making music

Dorian Summer Music Camps allow young musicians to step forward

Come where you are and take another step forward is the mantra behind the Dorian Summer Music Camps, hosted annually by Luther College, Decorah, Iowa. When the junior high and high school age musicians come for a week of camp, they bring different levels of skills and experience. By the end of the week, they’ll have brought themselves one step farther as a musician, as well as been able to take part in other visual and musical arts learning.

The program, now in its 48th year, has an appeal that is so great that some students may come for as many as the full seven years they are eligible. (The program is open to students in grades 6-12.) While there, they learn from Luther College faculty members and counselors who are current or former Luther students. Some of the counselors are alums of the Dorian Music Camp program. Many of them come back year after year, offering the campers a deep and rich continuity in their camp experience.

Two young bass players practice at Dorian Summer Music Camps. Photo provided by Dorian Summer Music Camps

In the midst of performances and learning, the kids find the balance of fun they seek from a summer camp.

“Counselors come back summer after summer, some have done it for 20 years,” said Jim Buzza, the coordinator for the Dorian Summer Music Camps.

The Dorian Summer Camps take place over two weeks in June: One week dedicated to grades six through eight; the second to those in grades nine through 12. While at the camps, students stay in dorms and spend their days in rehearsals, classes, and workshops led by Luther College faculty. Their evenings include recitals and recreational activities.

All students will perform in a large performing ensemble, either band, choir, or orchestra. They are not required to audition for the large performing ensembles, but may audition to get into smaller groups with more focused, intensive work (such as a brass choir). Additionally, students have the opportunity to take private lessons to further their vocal skills or focus on a specific instrument.

Learning from professionals and peers

Beyond their musical offerings, students can also experience additional curriculum offerings in the performing and visual arts. In 2012, Dorian will introduce curriculum offerings in theatre and drama, as well as a film class, at both their camps, which they hope will attract a broader range of students.

Students spend their days at Dorian learning from Luther’s stellar faculty. They are in classes with students at various levels, so they tend to learn from each other. Buzza compares the learning to that of the one-room school house philosophy.

“Someone could be in a composition class learning to write their first song, while another kid could be writing their second symphony. The kids learn from each other,” he said.

Part of the magic of the Dorian Summer Music Camps experience for the students is the opportunity for them to learn using the Luther College music and art facilities. “We are blessed with very good facilities,” Buzza said. “Kids have full access to music and art acilities. We never feel like we have to apologize for anything we offer. The kids get to work and perform in top-notch facilities.”

And, the chance to use these top-notch facilities allows the kids to move along, taking that one step forward as they prepare for the performances that take place at the end of camp each year.

In the midst of performances and learning, the kids also find the balance of fun they seek from a summer camp. “Dorian is a camp for people who happen to want to be musicians, artists, dancers,” Buzza said. “It has to be a good camp for people, as well as a good music camp.”

Based on reviews from parents and campers, it is achieving just that balance. One parent wrote that camp was a “growing experience” for their son, who came home and wanted to learn the violin. Another said, “This was our daughter’s first time at Dorian. She can’t stop talking about how much she enjoyed it. … Our only regret is that we didn’t send her to Dorian sooner!”

Camp for many young people is a formative life experience, as was captured by the voice of a Dorian camper, who wrote, “Those smiles and tears you see at the end of the week, they’re genuine. Yes, you can learn to care that much about something within a week.”

To learn more about the Dorian Summer Music Camps, go to camps.

The 2012 camp fee is $442, which includes room, board, and tuition. Some needs-based scholarships are available. Buzza notes that it is the sincere hope of everyone in the Dorian program that no one has to miss camp due to financial reasons. For those interested in learning more about the camp or scholarship information, contact Jim Buzza at jim or 563/387-1389.

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