Ideas on Learning

Using adventures to motivate young violinists


There are 3 'people' assisting in a child’s music education:

  • The parents

  • The teacher

  • The community

As good as my teacher was, as encouraging as my parents were, it was the community around me that kept me playing.


For instance, each summer we would go to Cannon Music Camp on the campus of Appalachian State University. For a month, we played music for 8 hours a day. But every spare moment not playing music, I was at the student union playing foosball or bowling. My parents would visit on the weekends, but most of the time we were independent and enjoying life on our own.


The first time I went, I was 10 years old. My older siblings, Loretta and Greg, took care of me for the first week of my homesickness. For the remaining 3 weeks of camp, I was good to go! I returned for many more years after that. (Like many parents, I find it hard to imagine sending my children to camp for a month when they were 10! Yet, it clearly was a good decision on their part.)


This epic adventure was one of the important ingredients that kept me (and my siblings) engaged in music through high school. While the camp teachers and parents think of the camps and music experiences like this...

"Campers participate in daily ensemble rehearsals and music theory classes in an atmosphere that elevates everyone's musicianship." -- Cannon Music Camp website


...I certainly didn't think of camp that way!


My memories are eating in the college dining hall alongside 'big kids', getting myself to classes (like a big kid), meeting college students who taught me how to play foosball, having my first kiss by the basement soda machine when I was 12, setting off a homemade 'bomb' (made from 50 snap dragons rolled into one), dancing to Elton John at the Saturday dances, and so much more. Violin gave me the passport to adventures and memories I wouldn't trade for anything.


I did 'enhance my musicianship', but music camp accomplished things so much more important. It taught me independence, confidence, relationship-building, how to rely on my siblings and foosball.


When people see and hear an accomplished musician, they typically think about the teacher and the committed parents.


The unsung hero, though, is the music community that surrounds the student. Camps, jams, dances, and adventures (see below) are often not on the radar of parents and teachers. But these are valuable ingredients in a music education that keeps kids playing.