PRIZM Ensemble's 2021 summer camps will be held in person and virtual; registration open

Memphis music education nonprofit PRIZM Ensemble is registering students for two weeks of in-person and one week of virtual summer camp programming.

Young musicians ages 12 to 18 who have been playing their instrument for at least 3 years can attend in-person camp June 21 through July 2 at Shady Grove Presbyterian Church. 

Instruction is available for musicians playing strings—violin, viola, cello, bass, and guitar; woodwinds—flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and saxophone; and brass instruments—trumpet, horn, trombone, and tuba.

From July 6-9, students can attend daily hour-long virtual camp sessions covering activism through music, music technology, and production. PRIZM Executive Director Rod Vester said students have been asking for guidance on these subjects.

“Especially because of the times that we're in, students are really trying to find out how they can use music as a means to pursue social justice and what that looks like,” said Vester. 

Registration is open now for all three weeks of PRIZM summer programming. For the safety of instructors and campers, Vester said they’re significantly scaling back in-person capacity from hundreds of campers in previous years to just 25 kids per week at this year’s camp. Social distancing guidelines will be enforced.

“In person, it's a whole-day experience,” Vester said. “Students are checking in from 8:00 to 8:30 [a.m.] Coaching starts at 9:00. Students are in a number of different groups, they are able to work with other students in the camp and with different faculty members.”

Campers will participate in intermediate to advanced chamber music classes, soft skills workshops, and master classes.

Families that register for in-person classes by Friday, May 7, get an early bird discount of $25 per week. Regular prices for in-person camp are $375 per week or $700 for both weeks. The virtual sessions are $10 each.

Need-based scholarships are available for half or full tuition. Adult caregivers should fill out the online scholarship application.

Vester said the biggest barrier to music education for children in Memphis is family income. This includes not being able to purchase an instrument to practice at home, a lack of transportation to lessons and camps, and not being able to afford private lessons. He also said most scholarships for music education programs are merit-based instead of need-based.

PRIZM leaders are working to remove as many barriers as possible for their camp families. Transportation will be available for children who receive scholarships, and the camp will provide instruments for the week to students who don’t own their own.

In the virtual week, campers who don't have a reliable device or WiFi at home can head to Shady Grove Presbyterian for socially distanced streaming sessions. 

In-person campers do not have to audition, but they must attend a skills assessment on June 5 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. For details, go to the PRIZM summer camp webpage.

Vester said students usually show considerable progress in their skills as they attend camp, but it’s difficult to evaluate their improvement.

“We’ve never figured out how to measure magic,” he said, laughing. “Because that is what happens. The goal of any of our programs is not to have the next [superstar]. We aren’t even expecting students to go on to be music majors. It’s a lot of mentorship, a lot of encouragement, and providing a safe environment for students to mess up, to grow, and to learn.”

The camp's faculty and student make-up are 60% nonwhite and 50% female. Vester said this distribution is designed to represent that of Memphis as a whole.

“I would say that’s unique to PRIZM—this intentionality to have a classical music program really mirror the demographics of Memphis. That has been something that's just at the heart of what we do.”
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Read more articles by Sarah Rushakoff.

Sarah Rushakoff was raised in Memphis and is a graduate of White Station High School and the University of Memphis. She is a longtime member of Our Own Voice Theatre Troupe and works professionally as a graphic designer, writer, and photographer.