Eleven-year-old Vedant Srivastava, who plays cello, is a first-time student in the Dal Segno summer music camp, sponsored by the Northern Valley Youth Orchestras, on the grounds of the Grand Forks Historical Society.
Vedant, who’s going into sixth grade at Schroeder Middle School, said he enrolled in the camp because “I wanted to do more musical stuff. I wanted to do this last year, but we had a family trip at the same time.”
Vedant is among about 20 kids, ages 10-15, who are enrolled in the summer camp to learn and polish their skills as string instrument players. The camp runs Monday through Friday, Aug. 10-14 and concludes with a concert for family and friends on Friday, Aug. 14. “Dal segno” means “from the sign,” and, in written music, directs the musician to return to a spot earlier in the music.
“I love the deep sound. I’ve always been into deep-sounding instruments. I think violins are too squeaky, honestly," said Vedant, who has been playing the cello for almost three years.
Naomi Welsh, NVYO executive director, said the location is perfect for spacing out small groups of students in a safer, outdoor setting. All students and coaches wear masks.
“Everyone in the world is trying to figure out how to make music safely -- whether it’s duets or trios,” Welsh said.
“We’ve had to stop the big-group practices,” she said. “We’re focused on instrument group lessons, and we’ve reduced the number of campers by half.”
On the shaded grounds of the historical society, with colorful flowers and bushes in full bloom, the setting “is kind of like a mini International Music Camp,” an annual event at the Peace Gardens in north-central North Dakota, Welsh said.
Several NVYO alumni, who are music majors in college, have stepped up to coach the campers.
Jack Bulman, a Grand Forks native who’ll be a junior at Concordia College in Moorhead this fall, is majoring in harp performance.
"I started with the violin, and then I continued through high school,” said Bulman, who has been involved in NVYO since fourth grade.
Late Monday morning, the 2018 Grand Forks Central High School graduate concluded a lesson with a trio of young musicians on harp, violin and cello. This is the first time harp has been taught at the summer camp.
“It was fun because we got to sight-read through a bunch of new music,” he said. “It’s fun to impart things to them, fun to interact with them. It’s interesting for sure.
“I’m glad I get to help out in some way,” Bulman said.
After graduation, he’s heading for graduate school where he’ll probably pursue a degree in harp performance to become a professional harpist, and teach on the side, he said.
“There are not a lot of harp teachers around Grand Forks,” said Bulman, adding the ones who are here have quite a few students.
Another NVYO alumnus, Jessica Folson, was involved with the NVYO for several years and has helped coach for the past four years, she said.
“When you’re trying to help others play better, it helps me better understand my own process, how long the process is, and how far you can come," said Folson, a student at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., who will be a senior this year, majoring in violin performance.
“Sometimes it’s challenging, because when something isn’t working for a student, you have to find a different way to approach it. When you find something that works, that makes you feel good," said Folson, who aims to pursue a career as a professional violinist after graduate school.
Born and raised in Grand Forks, Folson, a 2017 graduate of Red River High School, was influenced by other musicians in her family, including her mother, Ann Folson, and older sister, Claire Folson, who’ll take on the role of orchestra teacher at Schroeder Middle School this fall. Both play violin. Her late grandmother, Betty Folson, was a piano teacher.
Folson also credits Jeff Seabloom, RRHS orchestra teacher, who was “super influential and gave me lots of opportunities in orchestra and chamber music, (and) Jane Capistran, a very important private teacher,” she said.
Also coaching at the camp is Zephaniah Pearlstein, who is studying cello at UND.
Welsh said her college-age coaches “got their chamber music start at Dal Segno when young. This is always really rewarding to see in action.”
The NVYO Dal Segno camp is celebrating its 10th season, according to Welsh.
“It’s exciting to be able to offer anything live at this point in time,” said Welsh, adding the staff is “incredibly grateful” for the local businesses and organizations that are supporting the camp.
“It is a challenging time for all arts organizations, and we are especially concerned with providing a fun and meaningful experience, but also a safe one," she said.
The pandemic has taken a toll on music students and other musicians in the area who’ve seen performance opportunities and summer music camps canceled or postponed due to the potential threat of spreading the coronavirus at such gatherings.
“Young musicians who use music to express their feelings -- they’ve lost that,” Welsh said. “They’ve lost so much this spring.”
The Dal Segno music camp is a way to help fill that void -- the challenge is how and where to do it, she said.
This is the fourth location where the Dal Segno summer music camp has been held over the years, according to Welsh, noting that the Grand Forks County Historical Society has been “very supportive” of the Northern Valley Youth Orchestras.
“We’re learning how to adapt, change and make it work,” she said. “Making it work to make music.”