Some of my fondest memories date back to my teenage years, when, as a young flute student, I was shipped off to music camp by my parents. For two consecutive summers, I spent a month at the University of Vermont summer music program for high school students in beautiful Burlington. It was a great experience, with excellent teachers, opportunities to perform in band, orchestra and choir, and regular evening concert-going. Talented students came for all over the United States, and the few of us from Canada were considered rather exotic.
Following that, I spent a summer at Jeunesses Musicales in Mount Orford, Que., enjoying practising and taking lessons in little huts in the woods and being regularly exposed to artists like classical guitarist Alexandre Lagoya and the original Orford Quartet.
These music camps were strong influences. It was different than taking private lessons at home during the year and, on occasion, getting together as part of an ensemble. Instead, I was surrounded by music students who, while still very much being kids, were also extremely dedicated to their craft. Every day was filled with musical activities, be it theory class, choir, chamber music or technique. We did it together and that made even the serious work more fun.
You may be surprised to know that there is a week-long summer music program for string players right here in Winnipeg that provides many of the same opportunities mentioned above. Called the Rosamunde Summer Music Academy, it is the brainchild of Yuri Hooker, principal cellist of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, and WSO assistant principal violinist Elation Pauls.
"We felt that one thing Winnipeg lacked was an integrated place where students can come where the teachers are at a high level, offering comprehensive musical training, all under one roof," Hooker said in a telephone interview. "That would mean theory, lessons, accompaniment, orchestra and chamber music. There is a real need for this on the Prairies -- there's nothing of this scale. Most are catering only to younger students. We want to also cater to older, more advanced students in university and help grow the musical community."
The RSMA just began last summer and attracted 60 students in its inaugural year. Young musicians came from across Canada, and even from as far away as Mexico and Brazil. The program runs at the Canadian Mennonite University campus and takes place Aug. 18-24. Out-of-town students can access accommodations and food services at CMU.
"We were bursting, we couldn't have handled more," said Hooker. "But this year we have more rooms and more faculty members so we will be able to accommodate 75 students."
The RSMA offers programs for every level of musician starting at age five all the way up to adults. There is a half-day program for children ages five-10 ($275) that includes group performance, musical games and songs, introduction to music history, and theory and ear training that gets them singing and dancing to burn off energy. The day ends with an ensemble rehearsal and kids even get a healthy snack.
Junior, intermediate and senior full-day programs ($550) are geared toward string players of various ages and Royal Conservatory of Music levels. Depending on the grade, students may receive private instruction, master classes, technique classes, piano accompaniment sessions, ensemble and instruction in music theory, history and ear training. More advanced students attend orchestra rehearsals, introductory viola classes and Alexander Technique.
The young professionals program is for university students or recent graduates and provides additional training on how to audition for an orchestra position and chamber music opportunities with faculty members.
Adult amateur musicians can take part in a program called Rosamundiade. It offers private instruction, daily chamber music and orchestra rehearsals and the opportunity to audit/participate in master classes. It's a nice way to spend a week of summer vacation!
The faculty list boasts some familiar local musicians/teachers and some big international names. Master classes in the distinguished guest artist series are given by RSMA honorary patron violinist James Ehnes, former WSO principal viola Gerald Stanick and Israeli cellist Uri Vardi, who Hooker proclaimed to be "one of my favourite cello teachers in the world."
Along with Hooker and Pauls, faculty includes cellists Andrea Bell (Winnipeg) and Blair Lofgren (Orchestre Symphonique de Québec), Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra bassist Richard Carnegie, violinists Asaf Maoz (Komische Oper Berlin), Gwen Hoebig and Karl Stobbe, violists Daniel Scholz and Greg Hay, conductor Michelle Mourre and pianists Darryl Friesen and Leanne Regehr Lee (all from Winnipeg).
Mornings begin with an optional yoga class and the week ends with a series of concerts for various student levels.
"Our long-term goal is to become a full-fledged music festival offering programs of chamber music, symphonic music and opera every August, making Winnipeg a destination for music-lovers across the Prairies," said Hooker.
Registration for RSMA is accepted until June 1. For more information, visit www.rosamunde.ca