LPS students compose successful notes at orchestra camps

Lincoln Public Schools students made the works of Mozart, Handel and Beethoven come to life this summer during several camps for orchestra players.
Strings Alliance in Lincoln (SAIL) members hosted hundreds of musicians from across the city at the camps. Rehearsals for elementary, middle and high school students took place at various times July 17-28. Final concerts for all ages happened July 29 at Lincoln Southeast High School.
Ian Wright said many budding musicians benefited from their SAIL camp experiences. Wright serves as captain of the SAIL organization and teaches orchestra at Pound Middle School, Humann Elementary School and Zeman Elementary School. SAIL enrollment swelled to 300 students this summer, and the 2023 roster included students from all sections of Lincoln.
“We have 180 elementary students and about 120 middle and high school kids, so we have pretty good numbers,” Wright said. “It’s really encouraging to see this many elementary students here, because that means we’ll hopefully have good numbers for our middle and high school orchestras down the road.”
LPS Supervisor of Music Amy Holloman said the summer camps have inspired many students to become top players in their school ensembles.

“LPS has several music camps for students in band, orchestra and vocal music to extend their learning opportunities over the summer,” Holloman said. “Students have the opportunity to learn a variety of repertoire and participate in non-performance activities that are both educational and socially rewarding.”
The aspiring musicians also use the camps to maintain and improve their skills when school is not in session.
“We have many students who are unable to continue their study over the summer with direct instruction under a private teacher. LPS summer music camps help renew enthusiasm while continuing to develop new skills to prepare students for the upcoming school year,” Holloman added.
Wright said he was pleased to see the progress that elementary-aged musicians made throughout their week of rehearsals.
“I think that’s one of the biggest benefits of the camp,” Wright said. “A lot of the younger kids come here knowing nothing about orchestra. That’s why the camp is so important, because we’re able to teach them about things like how to properly hold the bow for certain notes.”

LPS officials have been key partners in the SAIL initiative throughout the event’s history. Phoebe Hamann came up with the idea for a summer orchestra camp in 1985, and she helped launch the group’s first concert at Auld Pavilion in Antelope Park. LPS provided all 35 students with instruments to use at no charge.
This year’s SAIL students embarked on their musical journeys with rehearsals on the second floor of Irving Middle School. Veteran teacher Rhonda Neely said it was important for them to work with fellow musicians from across the city.
“I love working with kids from all of the different schools in the area,” said Neely, who has been teaching orchestra classes for 40 years. “Everyone from Lincoln comes together, and they get to see people that they don’t see during the regular school year. It’s not just students from their own school that they’re standing or sitting by when they’re practicing. It’s someone that they might never have met before, which is great.”
She felt the SAIL experiences gave students lessons about teamwork, acceptance, flexibility and building friendships.

“Then when they come back here year after year, they remember each other and they become friends because of the camp. It’s so fantastic. They learn an amazing amount of social skills from being here, and that’s something that helps them in every part of their life,” Neely said.
Holloman agreed with those sentiments.
“Additionally, students who may be the only player in their section at their school have the opportunity to meet and play with other students who play their same instrument. Exposure to playing with different musicians sharpens aural skills and creates a network of new friends of whom students may otherwise not connect.”
The  camps also provided a way for older students to pass on their knowledge to younger musicians. Emma is a junior at Lincoln High and has played violin since the fourth grade. She chose to become a camp intern because she wanted to make a positive difference for others.
“This is my first time this year, and I’ve been having a lot of fun,” Emma said. “It’s been great to help out the kids and see them get better. I’ve really loved being able to see them smile when they learn something new.” 
Neely said that type of enthusiasm for music made Emma a good fit as a camp intern. She said Emma’s decision to attend was uplifting for everyone.
“I had Emma in class when she was in fourth grade, and I told her she would do a great job as an intern because she has the natural talent for this,” Neely said. “It’s the same way with the other teachers here. Many of them were interns with the camp, and now they’re helping to lead it.”

Camp interns like Emma are currently in high school or a recent high school graduate. They provide one-on-one tutoring to students, help classroom teachers with small-group instruction and assist with set-up and tear-down duties at the final concert.

Neely also mentioned these experiences are another way of LPS cultivating the next generation of future educators. 
“In our own way we’re fostering future teachers. We’re providing them a place to learn about what it means to be a teacher and to help others, which is so important.”

To learn more about our music curriculum, visit https://home.lps.org/music/.

Published: August 7, 2023, Updated: August 7, 2023

Lincoln Public Schools students enjoy learning orchestra notes during Strings Alliance in Lincoln (SAIL) camp activities at Irving Middle School. Rehearsals took place July 17-28 and final concerts happened July 29. SAIL enrollment swelled to 300 students this summer.