I can’t believe that Summer Sonatina International Piano Camp is about to embark on its 45th season of wonderful music-making! I have been a part of it every year since I was 10 years old. As Director for the past 30 years and co-owner with my husband, Dale Cobb, for the past 16, it feels great to be carrying the torch that my parents started for me and my four siblings back in 1969.
Who knew that it would turn into this incredible organization, one that has touched the lives of so many young pianists? There are now second or third generation pianists attending from all parts of the world.
We are scurrying about getting everything ready for camp…now only 9 days away! Bunk beds have been assembled, pianos have been repositioned, the huge outdoor tent has been set up, the bus and driver as well as all the faculty and staff have been contracted and all of the away concerts and events have been planned.
This year, we’re excited to include two young teenagers from countries that have not been represented at camp before: Russia and Turkey! They are here specifically for piano but the added bonus is that they can be totally immersed in the piano camp and sharing a dorm with friends who will help them become versed in the English language as well. What fun!
Piano Camp will span five weeks this season. Students, ages 7 – 16, of all levels of piano ability, will be attending between one and five weeks. A typical week has 42 boarders and a staff of over 18, working in various capacities: from junior counselors, piano practice buddies, sports directing, cooking massive amounts of delicious food, choral conducting, getting all the paperwork in order for scheduling to the many piano teachers who teach tirelessly and marvel at the musical growth of each individual.
While the stats of all the people working on the premises are listed above, what many people don’t know is that housed under the same roof of the piano camp with all the campers and staff are 30 pianos, tucked into every nook and cranny throughout the large mansion. Upon arrival, new students go on a tour, looking for all the pianos in the larger rooms like the living room or monster room to the tinier rooms like the laundry room or the Harry Potter Room under the stairwell (no distractions there!).
Students are organized by a giant wheel that dictates what time they practice, which room their piano for the day can be found in and also what small chore they might have as the camp philosophy includes learning how to be a part of a community, helping in various ways. Every day the wheel rotates so that they get a different time, room and chore so as to keep things fresh.
Every week the students perform in two venues. The formal Thursday evening concerts are held at the Bennington Center for the Arts at 6:00pm and are open and FREE to the public. Sunday mornings at 10:30am, informal concerts are held in the backyard of Summer Sonatina; acoustic pianos projected out with the help of amplifiers placed near the large French doors to audiences sitting under a large tent. A mini Tanglewood, if I might say so.
Weekly trips to the Bennington Lanes for the first social evening and to either Tanglewood to hear the Boston Symphony Orchestra or to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center to hear the Saratoga Opera Company perform Mozart’s Magic Flute or watch the New York City Ballet round out the trips that we’ll be taking with the entire camp.
Summer Sonatina recently was featured in Stratton Magazine. Please enjoy reading it here.
Every young pianist practices the piano 3 hours a day, receives 5 to 7 lessons (in addition to some supervised practice) per week, depending on the needs of the individual, rehearses approximately 5.5 hours per week of chorus, has several hours of activities ranging from arts and crafts, drumming, swimming at the Mount Anthony Country Club, hiking, walking, Frisbee, learning MIDI or jazz and blues, receiving duet coachings, having 2 or 3 piano master classes per week, two concert rehearsals a week and loads of fun with many newly found piano friends.
What tends to distinguish Summer Sonatina from other music camps is the fact that all the campers live and practice piano under one roof. In addition, no auditions are required to attend. Beginner pianists are fascinated by much they can learn from hearing some of the more advanced pianists and those who are advanced marvel at how rapidly the beginners learn how to read music and start playing music on the piano.
Alums from piano camp include those who are concert and amateur pianists, compose for Disney and TV shows, design sounds for Roland, attend conservatories like Juilliard and teach piano to the next generation. The highlight for many of the students, are the friends they make for life with piano being the instrument that brought them together at Summer Sonatina.
For the past couple of years, a scholarship fund has been made possible by the amateur adult pianists who attend the Sonata Piano Camp (the adult equivalent of Summer Sonatina, held every month except July) who have given specifically to young pianists living in Vermont or predominantly from Bennington. We are so fortunate to have their support!
If you’d like to learn more about Summer Sonatina, visit our website at www.sonatina.com (there are many more pictures, PR, and videos on the site) or phone 802-442-9197. Please join us by attending our free piano concerts every Thursday at 6pm at the Bennington Center of the Arts from June 26th through July 24th, 2014.