NEA Arts Magazine

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ASCAP and Manhattan School of Music's Summer Music Camp

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ASCAP and Manhattan School of Music summer campers participate in daily symphonic band rehearsals

ASCAP and Manhattan School of Music summer campers participate in daily symphonic band rehearsals. Photo by R. Andrew Lepley.

Since 1999, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) has partnered with the Manhattan School of Music to offer a free music camp for students who attend New York City's public schools. A FY 2007 Summer Schools in the Arts grant of $35,000 from the NEA to the ASCAP Foundation provided scholarships for 125 talented students to attend a music camp their families could not otherwise afford.

The ASCAP Foundation, the nonprofit arm of an organization that manages music copyrights, was founded in 1975 with a bequest from Jack Norworth, who wrote the all-American anthem "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." The foundation supports a range of projects, including several awards for jazz and classical composers, test runs for new musicals, and more than 40 music education programs, including the summer music camp.

Colleen McDonough, director of the ASCAP Foundation, explained that the camp gives students a chance to experience daily life at a music conservatory. For five weeks each summer, they receive private lessons, perform in ensembles, and attend concerts. Students also get to choose from several other arts electives such as acting, visual arts, and Latin jazz band. All these experiences are crucial if these public school prodigies are going to compete with students who have had access to conservatory training from a young age.

"This camp is really a springboard for many of these students to think about whether they want to go on to become professional musicians, vocalists, or composers," McDonough said. "This is an immersion in the arts, and this is an opportunity for them to live their art. These kids don't normally hang out five days a week with other kids who love playing music."

Not every summer camper will pursue a full-time career in music, but many appear headed that way. Camp Director Rebecca Charnow said the camp's success can be gauged by how many students arrive as fifth-graders and continue attending the camp until they graduate from eighth grade.

Our return rate is so high," Charnow said. "Almost everyone who is eligible comes back." As high school students, more than 50 former campers have been able to continue taking lessons in the Manhattan School's pre-college division through various scholarship programs. Ten former campers have gone on to study in the school's undergraduate conservatory.