MY ART STORY by

Petra Nyendick

Terre Haute
Indiana

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Large room with audience for a music performance

Final rock concert at the end of the week. Photo by Petra Nyendick

My art story is about a program called "Rock Camp" and how it changes teenagers' lives. As the director of the Indiana State University's Community School of the Arts, it is my responsibility to fulfill part of our mission statement: to enable youth from all walks of life to benefit from arts education.

Through an NEA grant, our school was able to accommodate 10 teens from underserved populations to attend our one-week summer resident camp, "Rock Camp". This camp is for students at beginning to advanced experience levels. Students need only have a passion for music and willingness to learn. The entire week is spent rehearsing and learning different aspects of rock music such as business, promotion, stage management, and its history. "Rock Camp!" culminates with a final rock concert at the end of the week. Parents, friends and the community are invited to attend this performance free-of-charge.

During the week, our instructors and staff notice significant changes in the kids. There are so many benefits for kids that attend Rock Camp. One benefit is that they start to realize that campus is a welcoming and inclusive environment. All kids deserve the opportunity to obtain a higher education, and by living on campus for a week, these teens start to feel comfortable and at ease in a college setting. It is often difficult to encourage at-risk populations to cross the "campus line" and programs such as Rock Camp are ways in which to ease the divide.

Another benefit the camp has on the kids is that they are able to forget about their problems - if just for a week. As the program enters the second day and beyond, everyone, kids and instructors, are totally immersed in the music. I have come to understand that some of these teenagers come from homes where there is no food available, no bed to sleep in, no transportation and usually no routine to rely upon. As kids start realizing that Rock Camp provides them with a place to sleep, three meals a day (and, of course, much more!) they relax, seem happier and are able to focus on music and enjoy a fun learning experience.

As we are aware, other benefits of music education on youth include increases in: music skills; pride in accomplishment; self-confidence to perform in front of an audience; creative problem-solving skills, and; working as part of a team in a band. I believe that the teens benefitted from the friendships that were created during the camp. They were exposed to youth from different backgrounds than their own and were able to see that people from all walks of life can work as a group and become colleagues and friends.

The success of one of the students is of particular note. M.C. has attended Rock Camp for two years. The high school he currently attends had to cut back the music programs offered. In an attempt to increase music offerings at school, he created his own after-school "Music Appreciation Club" and leads the group (supervised by his teacher). He even had a feature article written about this endeavor in the local paper! Success stories such as these prove how important it is to fund programs that enable youth from all walks of life to benefit from arts education!

Finally, ISU students benefitted from experiential learning opportunities from Rock Camp. Four ISU students were paid assistant instructors and one volunteered for the program.

This program is so beneficial to our community and we look forward to it every year!