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Teens Make Music at New Summer Camps

By Beth Krane - July 18, 2005

The unmistakable rhythms of jazz and the pluck of string instruments have joined the hum of summer camps taking place on campus this year.

San Francisco-based U.S. Performing Arts Camps, a company that has offered summer camps in theater, film, and dance at prestigious universities nationwide for three years, is entering the competitive music camp market for the first time this summer. The firm sought UConn as its sole location nationwide to launch two new music camps: Jazz Camp and Strings Boot Camp.

Samuel Rosenfeld, 15, of Stamford, Conn., plays alto saxophone, and Peter Ross, 16, of Coventry, R.I., plays tenor saxophone, while Matt Janiszewski ’05, instructor, listens, during a new summer jazz camp.
Photo by Melissa Arbo

“U.S. Performing Arts Camps are located at some of the finest university facilities in the country, and a great benefit for our campers is that many of our universities’ fine arts programs direct the camps themselves,” says Judith Patterson, president and chief executive officer of U.S. Performing Arts Camps. “We selected UConn to develop and nurture our new music camps because of the reputation of accomplished faculty members like Earl MacDonald and Peter Sacco, and because of the school’s ideal location between New York and Boston, two hotbeds of music on the East Coast.”

Earl MacDonald, an assistant professor of music and director of UConn’s Jazz Studies degree program, is leading two back-to-back, weeklong jazz camps from July 10 through July 22. Peter Sacco, an associate professor of music and director of the University Symphony Orchestra, is directing the one-week Strings Boot Camp, which runs from July 17 through 22. The launch of the new music camps was coordinated by Anne D’Alleva, associate dean of fine arts.

More than two dozen students from across the country are attending the camps’ this summer, including a 16-year-old aspiring jazz musician who traveled from California to study with MacDonald and other summer camp faculty.

David Woods, dean of fine arts, says hosting the new music camps allows UConn’s School of Fine Arts to showcase its outstanding faculty and facilities to the country’s most promising student musicians during their middle and high school years.


“It is an honor for us to join UCLA, Stanford University, and Pepperdine University in offering performing arts camps for young people across the country,” Woods says.

U.S. Performing Arts Camps runs camps at 10 universities nationwide, including those schools.

The camps include “master classes,” where students are grouped by instrument, combo rehearsals, and “works-in-progress” concerts to be held at von der Mehden Recital Hall at the end of each week.

The jazz camps also feature informal evening “jam sessions” in the residence halls where campers are staying, as well as one evening field trip per camp. For the first week’s field trip, MacDonald took campers to see the Worcester Jazz Orchestra, a 20-piece jazz ensemble, play at the Union Blues Jazz Club in Worcester.

“This is the first jazz camp I’ve been to and for me it’s been really fun,” says Peter Ross, 16, of Rhode Island. “I’ve learned a lot of new stuff.”

Jacob Rathbun, 14, of Mystic, says “It’s intense – a lot of information, but good information. All of the instructors are really knowledgeable.” Rathbun hopes to play trumpet professionally.

Patterson, of U.S. Performing Arts Camps, says she expects the number of campers to easily double by next year, as word spreads about UConn’s music camps.

But the first summer’s campers are getting an experience that will never be replicated because of the size.

“It’s amazing the level of attention these kids are getting,” MacDonald says.

During the first week of jazz camp, for example, two young saxophonists had the chance to work closely with John Mastroianni, a professor with UConn’s Jazz Lab Band and director of national-award winning bands at West Hartford’s Hall High School.

MacDonald also is simultaneously teaching a course on teaching jazz, offered for middle and high school music teachers working on their graduate degrees through UConn’s College of Continuing Studies.

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