Camp helps Ala. children improve music skills

DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) – It’s not exactly your typical summer camp, but Summer Fun with String Orchestra offers a unique opportunity for children with musical aspirations.

The weeklong stringed instrument training course might not offer swimming or zip lines, but it does help campers improve their skills on the violin, viola, bass and cello – something many young musicians are happy to have in the slow months of a Wiregrass summer.

Eugene Connor, owner of Connor Music Studio, started the camp more than a decade ago as a way to improve his students’ skills and get them playing in a group setting.

“Everybody likes to be with other people,” Connor said. “You feel like you’ve done more when you can go and hear the harmony and listening to other players. You have to listen to the other players, and everybody has to stay together. It’s been really helpful to help push the kids’ playing level up, so they learn a lot. It also helps us to have a real, nice, full orchestral sound.”

For two weeks every June, Connor holds two stringed instrument classes at the Cultural Arts Center – a beginner class and a class for children who have played for at least a year. In the more advanced class, students learn lessons in music theory, techniques and orchestral playing. They also switch off becoming a section leader as a way to increase their leadership skills. At the end of the week, students hold a performance.

This year, students in the advanced class learned four songs during the performance, including “My Heart Will Go On,” from the “Titanic” film soundtrack, and the “Batman” theme.

Connor said the camp is helpful in Dothan, where none of the schools offer stringed instrument programs, with the exception of an after-school program at Heard Magnet School. The Wiregrass Youth Symphony Orchestra also offers another program for getting young people involved with string instruments during the school year, he said.

“Not every child wants to play the flute or the clarinet or the saxophone or the drums or the trumpet or whatever,” Connor said. “I’ve always found there’s been a big interest. It’s just been really hard to get that promoted in the area, and hard to get people to understand that what we’re doing is a lot of fun.”


Information from: The Dothan Eagle

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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