Naomi Welsh loves a challenge.
Welsh, the executive director at the Northern Valley Youth Orchestra and director of the organization’s Dal Segno summer camp, has only a week to get a group of about 50 kids ready for a public performance.
They play a song from “Les Miserables,” and though it’s easily recognizable, it’s not exactly how she wants it.
“Even if it doesn’t go perfectly, you get to see how much they’ve grown in just a week,” she said.
The week-long Dal Segno camp culminates at 1 p.m. Friday with a show put on by the campers at the recital hall at UND.
This is the fourth year the camp has been under the Dal Segno name, before that it was known as Summer Strings.
Dal Segno is run by the Northern Valley Youth Orchestra and allows students in 10th grade and younger to learn and work with other musicians at their playing level through chamber ensemble coaching and string orchestra rehearsals. The kids play violin, viola, cello and bass.
The camp splits the participants into an intermediate, advance and prep orchestras to allow kids to play with people in their skill level. This is the first year the Dal Segno camp featured a prep orchestra program, designed for students in seventh grade and younger who have played for at least one year to participate.
The Dal Segno camp is designed to run supplementary to what kids learn at their respective schools. Welsh said there are several public school music teachers that help out with the camp and have been supportive of the program.
“A lot of the teachers see those as complementary to what we do,” Welsh said. “Especially with school just a couple of weeks away, getting out that instrument and playing it is a good idea.”
Welsh said she tries to challenge the kids at the camp. If she sees a young musician who seems bored, she encourages them to play their instrument in a different way to make it harder. Furthermore, if she or the coaches sees a camper is struggling, they’ll find a way to try and make accommodations to make the child feel comfortable.
At the end of the day, Welsh said, she and the coaches want to make the kids feel like they’ve achieved something great.
Welsh said the camps have a high retention rate, with many of the students returning year after year and continuing work with the Northern Valley Youth Orchestra into the fall. Many of the former campers come back as coaches after graduating from high school. Welsh said many of the younger musicians react well to being coached by someone closer to their age.
“The coaches remember what it was like to be that age, and they respond well to instructing kids who were once in their shoes,” Welsh said.
At this year’s camp, the kids learned a wide variety of music, ranging from Mozart and other classical music to songs from “Les Miserables” and Broadway. Welsh said the organization is trying to encourage students to explore those different types of music, with the theme of the Northern Valley Youth Orchestra’s 2014-15 season being “All the World’s a Stage.”
Camp director Robin Riveland said music improves the quality of life of the students. She said the camp helps promote music and allows young musicians to work through social and mental challenges. She and Welsh see the social aspect of the camp as an important part to kids growing as people and musicians.
“Music is the only thing that influences every area of the brain,” Riveland said. “It impacts social, emotional, cognitive, physical, language, musical, development — every single area of the brain. It’s much more than just learning how to play an instrument.”
The Northern Valley Youth Orchestra will have auditions for its 2014-15 season on Sept. 13 and 14 at the UND Hughes Fine Arts Center.
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