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Reaching for the Stars

Prestigious Performing Arts Summer Programs

By Laurie Pellichero | Photo from

While traditional camps offer a wide variety of experiences for campers each summer, those with an affinity for the performing arts might want to consider attending a summer program that can enhance their talents while they enjoy the fun, adventure, and camaraderie of camp life. Here’s just a sampling of high-profile options across the country.

The Juilliard School
60 Lincoln Plaza Center,
New York, N.Y.

The Juilliard School, founded in 1905, is world-famous for its performing arts education. The school’s mission is to provide the highest caliber of artistic education for gifted musicians, dancers, actors, composers, choreographers, and playwrights from around the world so that they may achieve their fullest potential as artists, leaders, and global citizens.

Each summer, Juilliard offers several learning opportunities for artists at varied skill levels. These include Summer Composition, a two-week program offering high school composers the opportunity to live and study at Juilliard’s campus at Lincoln Center, with world-renowned faculty members and guest artists. They can also explore New York City music and arts institutions and receive mentorship from leaders in the field. Summer Piano is a 10-day program offering advanced high school pianists the chance to live on campus and participate in daily lessons, master classes, studio piano classes, and seminars. Participants will also perform in recording sessions and public recitals.

Other programs on campus include Summer Voice, Summer Percussion Seminar, Summer Dance Intensive, String Quartet Seminar, and Summer Music Theory and Ear Training.

Summer Performing Arts with Juilliard at Nord Anglia Schools, for students ages 12-18, features two-week intensives hosted at Windermere Preparatory School in Orlando, Fla. Financial aid is available for some programs.

Interlochen Center for the Arts
4000 J. Maddy Parkway,
Interlochen, Mich.

Nestled between two lakes and surrounded by pines in northwest Michigan, Interlochen Center for the Arts has offered immersive arts experiences for all ages since 1928. A true artist’s retreat, it encompasses six different program areas including the Interlochen Arts Camp, Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen Online, Interlochen Public Radio, Interlochen Presents, and Interlochen College of Creative Arts.

During the summer, Interlochen Arts Camp features a large and varied selection of programs and education for students in grades 3 through 12 in disciplines including creative writing, dance, film and new media, interdisciplinary arts, music, theater, and visual arts.

A variety of session lengths and dates are offered, including two- and four-week sessions for grades 3-6, and three- and six-week sessions for grades 6-12. One-week intensive programs are also available for campers in grades 9-12.

According to its website, Interlochen invites campers to bring their curiosity and excitement and leave with new techniques, lots of life and camp experience, and lasting memories. Its counselors, faculty, and staff welcome young artists from around the world who can also enjoy swimming, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and sailing on the freshwater lakes or individual and team sports on the scenic campus. Financial assistance is available.

Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Training Center
15 Stagedoor Drive, Loch Sheldrake, N.Y.

Natalie Portman, Robert Downey Jr., Ansel Eigort, Mandy Moore, and Jon Cryer are among many actors who got their start as kids at Stagedoor Manor theater camp in the Catskill Mountains, about two hours from New York City. Each summer 14 full-scale productions come to life every three weeks at the camp, where, as noted on its website, seasoned professionals demand adult-sized dedication and performances from the campers.

In each session, campers are enrolled in six difference classes such as musical theater, vocal training, movement, dance, film acting, stage combat, and more. Campers can explore over 60 core options as well as over 25 specialty classes that are based on the incoming staff each summer.

Stagedoor Manor campers live in dormitory-style rooms in the former resort hotel, which is set on landscaped grounds with rehearsal spaces, classrooms, and eight indoor and outdoor theaters. A variety of dramas and musicals are produced each season, all featuring costumes, scenery, and lighting by professional designers.

Stagedoor notes that the campers come with a wide range of experience — some have little to no training, while others are already professional performers with film, television, and Broadway credits. While many of their alumni have gone on to successful careers, they stress that their primary purpose is to create an enriching summer atmosphere where young people can learn and grow through the fun of theater and camp.

French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts
199 Bouchoux Brook Road, Hancock, N.Y.

Individual choice is the philosophy at French Woods, a co-ed sleepaway performing arts summer camp for youths aged 7-17. Established in 1970, the camp, located on 170 acres bordering a private lake in the Catskills, offers many options in theater, music, art, dance, circus, magic, and horseback. In addition to their core activities, all the programs of a traditional summer camp are included in the offerings at French Woods.

As noted on its website, campers come from every state and more than 40 countries. French Woods believes that working together on non-competitive performing arts programs that they choose themselves helps campers develop real life skills that aren’t taught in school, and gives them the skills they need for future successes. The staff encourages campers to try new things and be challenged in an environment that supports success.

Campers can come for three-, six-, nine-, or 12-week sessions offered each June through the end of August. A week-long trial session at the end of the summer is also offered. Notable alumni include Zooey Deschanel, Jon Favreau, Natasha Lyonne, and Adam Levine.

Upper Darby Summer Stage
601 N. Lansdowne Avenue, Drexel Hill, Pa.

Each summer, the Upper Darby Summer Stage, located just outside Philadelphia, invites students and young theater professionals to participate in its Summer Stage theater camp.

The mission of Upper Darby Summer Stage, founded in 1976, is to encourage young people to develop their talents, personality, and energy, and to share that magic with their audiences through outstanding theatrical performances for the entire family.

According to its website, Summer Stage welcomes more than 30,000 audience members each summer to its Children’s Theatre shows, Mainstage musical, Summer Stories Series, and Dance Troupe performances.

For young performers in fourth through seventh grade, a variety of Summer Stage Junior programs teach the basics of singing onstage, musical theater, dance, acting, improvisation, and storytelling through games and fun exercises. Performers finishing seventh grade through high school can participate in the Children’s Theatre Program, those finishing eighth grade through high school can take the Technical Theatre Program, and those ages 16-28 can audition for the Mainstage Program, which features the production of a Broadway musical.

There are also several Showcase programs open to all Summer Stagers, which have rehearsals throughout the summer culminating in performances at the end of the summer.

Long Lake Camp for the Arts
83 Long Lake Camp Way,
Long Lake, N.Y.

Family owned since 1969, Long Lake Camp for the Arts is a creative oasis located on a 60-acre estate set among lakes, mountains, and forests of Adirondack Park in upstate New York. The overnight camp specializes in programs in theater, improv, fine arts, dance, music, circus, drama, bands, acting, film, and photography.

Campers, who range in age from 8 to 16, can customize their own three- or six-week schedule, and also enjoy waterfront and land sports such as tubing, sailing, water waterskiing, canoeing, swimming, horseback riding, high ropes, tennis, soccer, fencing, fishing, hiking, and much more.

According to the camp, its unique size of only 200 children and 145 staff means that every camper enjoys exceptional attention. It has a non-competitive philosophy, and many performance opportunities for the campers. Some of the campers go on to become professional performers, while others participate for the love of the craft. Beginner, intermediate, and advanced artists and performers are all welcome, and campers come from more than 40 states and 20 countries.

Aspen Music Festival and School
225 Music School Road, Aspen, Colo.

Celebrating its 75th anniversary season June 26 through August 18, the Aspen Music Festival and School is known as one of the top classical musical festivals in the country, noted for both its concert programming and its musical training of young adult music students. It is located on the 38-acre Bucksbaum Campus just outside of Aspen amidst aspen trees, fields, and ponds.

According to the school, its typical summer season includes more than 300 classical music events — including concerts by four orchestras, solo and chamber music performances, fully staged opera productions, master classes, lectures, and children’s programming — and brings in 100,000 audience members.

It offers musicians 10 programs of study including Orchestra, Solo Piano, Collaborative Piano, Aspen Opera Theater and VocalARTS, the Aspen Conducting Academy, the Seraphic Fire Professional Choral Institute, the Susan and Ford Schumann Center for Composition Studies, the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, the American Brass Quintet Seminar @Aspen, and Classical Guitar.

The average age of an Aspen student is 23, but the program is open to musicians of any age, at any stage of their careers. Its website does note that the intensity of the professional performance schedule and the exacting standards of quality make it most appropriate for serious, dedicated musicians. About 470 students come from about 40 states and 31 counties. Housing is not offered for students under the age of 18.

Boston University Tanglewood Institute
45 West Street, Lenox, Mass.

Offered through Boston University’s College of Fine Arts, the Boston University Tanglewood Institute (BUTI) features 25 summer programs for instrumentalists, singers, and composers ages 14 through 20 from mid-June through mid-August.

BUTI is located in the Berkshire Mountains of Lenox, Mass., just down the road from the Tanglewood Music Center, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO). Most students live on campus and participate in a variety of student life activities.

In two-week workshops, which run at the beginning of the summer, students can hone their craft in a small group setting while they focus on the fundamentals of technique and musicianship, work alongside others in group master classes, and perform. Each workshop is tailored to their specific instrument.

Young Artists programs for orchestra, wind ensemble, voice, piano, composition, and harp run for three to six weeks. In these programs, students can expect to receive professional training typical of college and conservatory programs. They will participate in individual lessons, academic classes, master classes, chamber music, and performance.

BUTI notes that, because of its relationship with the BSO, students will have the opportunity to learn and grow through intensive programming in the presence of some of the world’s greatest music professionals and teachers. Their faculty is drawn from the BSO and Boston University, as well as from their global alumni community. Scholarships are available.

Visit the websites for application dates and requirements, schedules, fees, and additional information.

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