Monday, August 1, 2011

Strings Alliance in Lincoln introduces music to grade schoolers

SAIL Camp is not about sailing or the sea, it is about music and is a wonderful program in Lincoln dedicated to bringing a little music into student's lives during the summer. It is brought to Lincoln students by the Lincoln Public School system, and Mike Swartz, currently the director of the program, shares a little of the camp's history and exciting possibilities for the students.
What is SAIL Camp?
SAIL Music Camp is a summer day camp for students wishing to learn to play or improve on their stringed instrument. In the first few years of its existence, SAIL was for brand new beginners only. As the camp gained in popularity and size we expanded to 2 sessions. Session 1 was for beginners and session 2 for students with 1 to 2 years of experience. The curriculum was modified to allow for this change. After a few more years we found that middle school students wanted to continue to come to SAIL but were too old and experienced for Session 2. At that point, (I think it was 1993) I created the Honors Orchestra. This group is for students from 6th to 9th grade and plays much more advanced music.

What was the inspiration for SAIL Camp?
Our founder was Phoebe Hamaan. Phoebe was very active in the Sigma Alpha Iota professional music fraternity for women and SAIL was first envisioned as an "outreach project" for the fraternity. The acronym "SAIL" comes from sigma alpha iota and stand for "Strings Alliance in Lincoln." Once the acronym was decided it was easy to develop a camp where we are all "Sailors on the Sea of Song" with students divided into "fish schools" such as "guppies", "minnows" etc. I am the "Captain" of the ship and my teachers are "Lieutenants" with our high school helpers who are "Interns". In the first years, the Parks & Recreation Department provided the facilities for free, LPS provided the instruments and transportation for them, and SAI provided volunteers to do everything except actually teach the classes. From the beginning instructors were paid. As the camp evolved we became too large for Parks and Rec. so LPS picked up the facilities as well. As we have grown and grown we have kept the founding principles that Phoebe envisioned but have modified camp to become more efficient and self-supporting.

How many years since SAIL camp began? How many students would you say have attended?
SAIL Music Camp is in its 27th year! In its infancy there were no computers and records have a way of getting lost. I know the first year there were 34 campers. This year there are 376! For the last 15 years there have been at least 350 per year and that alone would make 5250! I would guestimate the total number near to 7000.

Can you share one specific memory or time that you saw music really move and take hold of a young student’s heart and mind?
There are so many students that have been moved deeply by their camp experiences that this a really tough one. We have had many of our high school student teacher interns that have decided to go into teaching after their SAIL experience--not all in music--but they just found that they loved to teach kids! One that may stand out is a camper (and former private student of mine) named Erik Higgins. When he was in third grade he declared that he was going to be a bass player. After his SAIL experience and other experiences both in school and out he worked extremely hard (and was brilliant). At the age of 14, he won the International Society of Bassists worldwide competition for 14 and under. At 17, he won the American String Teachers Association National Competition for Double Bass. He currently is residing in Germany as a professional bassist.
SAIL Music Camp had a week session for southern Lincoln and one for northern Lincoln this year which were from July 25-29 and August 1-5. You can read and find out more at the SAIL website.

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