by Casey Mysliwy, PortalWisconsin.org
Each summer, almost a thousand junior high and high school students gather at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for Summer Music Clinic, a music education camp organized by the Division of Continuing Studies and the School of Music. And every summer, these students become the newest generation in a long line of Music Clinic attendees.
For many families involved with the clinic, participating in the camp is a tradition passed down from parents to children and through multiple generations. "It's a tight-knit community," said Richard Wolf, director of the program from 1962 to 1973. Wolf himself attended Music Clinic before going on to become its fourth director. His daughter and granddaughter both took part in Music Clinic as well.
According to Kathy Punwar, Wolf's daughter, her father's important role in Music Clinic never made her feel any extra pressure. "I was able to be me and do what I needed to do," she said. "I felt like another Clinic kid."
It is Summer Music Clinic's unique structure and philosophy that has inspired "Clinic kids" to become better musicians and enjoy the musical experience, according to Wolf and others. UW's Clinic was the first of its kind when it began in 1929. The goal was to find a new, more specialized way to teach people music. According to Summer Music Clinic's current director, Anne Aley, the program's founders accomplished this by partnering music educators with young musicians.
This key relationship between teachers and students continues today with two week-long sessions: one for junior students in grades six to eight, and another for senior students in grades nine to twelve. Students can participate in a wide range of classes in band, orchestra, choir, musical theater and jazz ensemble.
In addition to practicing personal performance skills, students are encouraged to pursue other areas that interest them, choosing from courses such as conducting, arranging, film scoring and even hip-hop history. The program also offers evening activities like sports, aerobics and jam sessions to connect students with their fellow campers.
At the end of camp, students use the skills they have learned over the past week to put on concerts for family and friends. According to Aley, the culmination of all the campers' hard work is rewarding for family members to witness in these concerts. "It's a miracle moment," she said.
While students who attend Summer Music Clinic take away a wealth of knowledge, the personal relationships built through the program are equally important to most attendees. Many of the friends Punwar made during the camp have proven to be lifelong onessome even played at her wedding. Punwar described the Music Clinic experience as profound and liberating. "It's a twofold opportunity," she said. "The level of music-making has a powerful impact on kids, and so does the social piece of being on campus and being independent."
For Wolf, it was seeing students learn about themselves that made his involvement with Summer Music Clinic most worthwhile. "It's just amazing how they grow," he said. "That just lifts everybody up. That's the most rewarding." Wolf also hoped students would "want to go home and help other kids get better."
Above all, though, Wolf cites as its biggest success the program's commitment to providing music education and opportunities regardless of current talent level. It is for this reason that Music Clinic does not require auditions for acceptance. According to Wolf, educating all students who want to learn music is a core philosophy. "It's an educational scene. We want to teach them," he said.
Many past Music Clinic students who have pursued careers in music maintain close ties to the program, returning to the camp as counselors, teachers or, in many cases, to see children and grandchildren have their own experiences. Wolf remembers returning to Music Clinic to visit when his grandchildren attended. "It was fun to see my grandkids go through it a generation later," he recalled.
Punwar said she felt a similar excitement when her daughter started Music Clinic. "Generationally, that was nice," she commented.
But what most amazes Punwar is how steadfast Summer Music Clinic has remained over the years. "Clinic hasn't changed in philosophy," she said. "I still marvel at how amazing it still is for kids. Students are transformed by the experience."
For detailed information about the 2009 Clinic, visit the official Web site or call director Anne Aley at 608-263-2242.