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Young Inner-City Musicians Learn from DePauw's Orcenith Smith

July 1, 2002

July 1, 2002, Greencastle, Ind. - Immediately after DePauw finished final exams and grades were turned in, DePauw School of Music faculty member Orcenith Smith dove into the process of holding auditions for an inner-city music camp in Indianapolis. For the third summer in a row, Smith has spent days and evenings listening to live auditions of Indianapolis middle-school students. The result is "Strings and Jazzy Things", presented by The Philharmonic Orchestra of Indianapolis, in cooperation with the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of the Children's Museum and the Indianapolis Symphonic Band. The camp is made possible by the Clowes Foundation, Lilly Endowment, Indianapolis Foundation and St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

The goal is to bring underserved string, wind, and percussion students together for a tuition-free, one-week all-day music camp. Over 100 students attended the camp June 10-14, held at Shortridge Middle School which donated its space. "The camp's mission states that it wants to engage youth through their musical creativity and performance which will foster mutual respect and develop relationships that encourage and enable self-discipline and positive self-esteem," according to Professor Smith. "We are excited because the size of the camp has grown dramatically as word has gotten out about what efforts are made on behalf of the children," Smith says.

"This model program brings students together for a week of intensive music study who ordinarily might not be able to afford it. As well, most of these young musicians who have their school music class maybe several times a week, now come into an environment in which they are playing their instrument for five hours a day." Smith added, "We want to amplify the dedicated work of the public school music teachers by extending into the summer the momentum they've given the child's music study. One student said that it was like going to school, but spending all day doing what he liked to do!"

Parents drop off their children by 9 a.m. and pick them up after 4 in the afternoon. The camp uses professional musicians, such as DePauw adjunct assistant professor of viola, Alison Guest Edberg, to coach the students in daily sectional rehearsals. There also are guests to discuss topics which include taking care of your instrument and how to be warm up before playing. Campers took part in a chamber music performance demonstration and a jazz improvisation master class taught by jazz violinist, Cathy Morris. Meals are provided; there is even a nurse on duty, and there are college music students, such as DePauw senior Briana Rhodes, serving as music counselors.

Smith admits, "All that time driving back and forth to Indianapolis and sitting through hours of live auditions has an important purpose, of course. And that is to provide a unique opportunity for these children to make music together in a appropriate setting. It has heightened their awareness of many things, including being able to focus on a single project, understanding how to put forth their best effort and then how to work together in an environment that encourages the best attitudes of interaction. The final concert was really a wonder to behold, and I'm already excited about next summer's camp."

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