Dal Segno music camp, hosted by the Northern Valley Youth Orchestras, is set for Aug. 9-13 on the grounds of the Grand Forks County Historical Society, said Naomi Welsh, executive director.

The day camp for strings, winds, brass and percussion is open for students in grade 10 and younger, according to the NVYO website.

There is no audition requirement for participating, Welsh said. Participating students usually are in fifth grade and higher, but criteria for selection is based more on playing level than grade level, she said. “Flexibility is kind of the operating word this year.”

The teacher-student ratio is about three or four to one, so students receive “a lot of individual help, support and encouragement,” Welsh said. “Dal Segno” is a musical term for “the sign,” which directs the musician to return to an earlier place in the music.

This summer, the group is repeating the same format – outdoors at the Myra Museum at 2405 Belmont Road – as last summer, when the coronavirus pandemic forced postponement or cancellation of numerous arts activities.

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That set-up “worked well for the smaller numbers that we were able to accommodate, and people really enjoyed the feel of the outdoors there – very much like some of the many summer camps that run in outdoor settings around the country,” Welsh said.

The camp offers morning and afternoon sessions for two levels of camper, she said. “We have our less experienced students in the morning and those with more chamber music experience in the afternoon.”

Each session will be limited to 16 students, to adhere to social distancing protocols.

In addition to exposure to a wide variety and different styles of music, students will also learn “musical independence,” Welsh said. Since chamber music is performed without a conductor, students learn “teamwork and nonverbal communication while you’re playing complicated music.” This is a benefit for younger music students since many people are not introduced to chamber music until they are older, she said.

Instrument technique

In small groups, they’ll learn about techniques and specific skills for their particular instrument, she said. They will also benefit from meeting new people and learning how to work with others.

Students will learn about the roots of chamber music, she said. Last year, in addition to traditional chamber pieces, students performed a piece that was “more of a folk tune that would’ve been performed at an evening at home at the Campbell House (on the museum grounds), when Pa got out his fiddle and everybody played, because that’s where chamber music began – people playing in their homes with their friends.

“And we do circle back to that and explain that this is why chamber music exists,” Welsh said. “People didn’t have TV; they got their instruments out and played trios with their friends and that was how you passed the time, and that’s something we can still do – learn how to make music with our friends.”

For those students who are unfamiliar with the historical society, they’ll be able to explore the museum and its properties during breaks.

Overall, the camp’s goals are to help students learn something new, meet someone new, be challenged and have fun, Welsh said. In a survey, conducted every year, "parents have said that yes, 100 percent, we have met our goals.”

Dal Segno is one of several programs that NVYO offers for students’ musical education enrichment throughout the school year.

“Of all our programs, Dal Segno seems to do the most good connecting people to music – people who maybe haven’t experienced chamber music before, especially our younger students who have never played in a small group like that,” she said.

Fun, social experience

Organizers of the Dal Segno camp are able to engage coaches, some of whom are camp alumni and college students home for the summer, who wouldn’t be available during the school year, Welsh said.

“We have students who drive up to 100 miles a day to attend,” which may not be possible during the school year, she said. “So it’s kind of an interesting thing every year to look at where all the kids came from and what they’re doing.”

Welsh and other Dal Segno leaders sit down every year “and try to figure out how we can challenge students musically – really, really push them – but make sure that it’s a fun and social experience, too,” she said. “So you’ll see them working very hard on some complicated string chamber music one minute and then hula-hooping and eating chips the next minute.

“We’re just really trying to make sure that there’s a lot of the fun component in there,” Welsh said. “The tagline we keep using is ‘serious fun,’ and the meaning of that is we really are seriously working very hard on music, but we are having fun doing it.”

During the pandemic, finding social interaction activities while keeping students at a safe distance has been challenging, but Welsh and her colleagues were able to do that last summer, she said, and “we’re pretty confident we’ll be able to do it again.”

Organizers plan to offer a late-morning concert Aug. 13, the camp’s final day, on the museum grounds.

For more information, contact Welsh at info@novyo.org or (701) 213-0310.