Students in Waterloo Region were able to experience a unique curriculum-based band camp for the first time, thanks to Bandology's newest day camp.
Bandology, which was founded in 2017 by parents who strongly believe in the long-term benefits of music education, expanded this year with Band Camp Grand River in Breslau, serving kids in the Kitchener-Waterloo-Guelph area.
“Waterloo Region has such a great history of music, especially with the university there, that we thought it was a perfect choice for our next band camp,” said Lisa Michaels, co-founder and executive director of Bandology.
It’s the first of its kind in the area, following the music curriculum kids are taught in school.
The camp offers programming for students in Grades 7-12, as well as a junior camp for kids in Grades 1-6. It’s open to kids with extensive musical experience, as well as kids with barely any, and gives them a chance to learn and improve musical skills. By the last day, they’ll all be able to perform in a small group, showing off what they’ve learned.
They throw in some typical camp games for good measure, too.
“We found last year that kids have forgotten how to make friends. So we want to make sure there’s games and hang time,” Michaels said.
For the younger kids, they focus on allowing them to try out a variety of instruments, like bucket drumming and ukuleles. They compose music in this manner with the help of camp leaders, music that they’ll perform by the end of the week.
“So they learn music composition in a fun way.”
Their curriculum-based program was developed by Kitchener-based musician and composer Sandy Wright, who holds a contemporary music degree as well as a master’s in composition and another in community music.
“For me, (music) can be a very vital part of growing into the person you are,” he said. “We’re here to help them grow.”
Making the curriculum, they’re trying to build a diverse set of skills, bringing kids out of their comfort zones. For instance, Wright says many people aren’t comfortable singing, so they have a vocal workshop to challenge students with, to “take away the uncertainty, and give you another thing that might be able to enrich your life.”
It might be curriculum-based, but kids aren’t graded at the end of each session, so it takes the stress out of learning.
“Right now, there’s nothing like it,” he said.
In high school, Wright went to a bandcamp where he had an “enriching” experience, and wanted to recreate that experience for students in Waterloo Region.
Music provides an opportunity to meet new people and work together towards a common goal, “and not only is that a life skill, but it’s really wonderful,” he said. “You can see it play out with the kids going from complete strangers to being comfortable to go like, ‘Hey, do you want to be in my punk band?’ over the course of a couple of weeks.”
This is especially important in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Not only are kids struggling to make friends, but many haven’t been able to learn music in Grades 6 and 7 like they normally would.
“Who knew wind instruments would be so dangerous? When you play a wind instrument, or you’re singing, you generate aerosol particles, which are what COVID is based around,” Michaels said.
“A couple years from now, you’ll see music programs being decimated, because kids haven’t had that opportunity to play.”
And after two “really rough years” with challenging online and hybrid learning environments, developing transferable skills like teamwork, collaboration, organization and time management has become “invaluable.”
Especially through music, she noted, which “makes them smarter, it gets them better reading skills, better motor skills, social skills. And of course, it’s awesome for mental health,” she said, adding that kids who take music in high school can have marks nine to 15 per cent higher than those who don’t.
Michaels herself is a parent of three, and loves her kids to be able to run around, playing with other kids throughout the summer, which is one of the components of the camp.
“But the idea that this is curriculum based is a no brainer for me. They’re going to build skills in the summer that will be helpful in September.”