Guest blogger Jacob Wolbert on UW’s 2013 Summer Music Clinic: “Something magical.”

The School of Music has a guest blogger this week and next: Jacob Wolbert, a third-year UW percussionist who is a counselor at the Summer Music Clinic, a many-decades tradition at the university. SMC, as it’s known, which takes place every summer in June, offers middle- and high-schoolers weeklong opportunities to explore all kinds of music: band, orchestra, choir, musical theater and jazz.  Students live in dorm rooms in Ogg Hall, take classes and play music in the School of Music venues in Humanities, and generally live the life of Riley in downtown Madison. For one week—-then they return home with lots of new friends, musical ideas, and fun memories.

By Jacob Wolbert 

So far, music and laughter have echoed throughout the halls of the Humanities Building and Ogg Residence Hall, setting the tone for the next couple of weeks.  New friendships have been forged, old ones rekindled, and a shared passion has been acknowledged and furthered.  All this can only mean one thing: the junior session of the UW-Madison Summer Music Clinic is well underway, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Jacob Wolbert
Jacob Wolbert
Photograph by Mike Anderson

My name is Jacob Wolbert and I just completed my third year at UW-Madison, pursuing majors in percussion performance and Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies.  As a middle schooler, I attended Summer Music Clinic, and I can safely say that I would not be majoring in music had I not been a camper.  Escaping the frustration of my school band, where interest levels and attitude varied considerably, I cherished my one week of the year to make music in a collaborative, encouraging, and fun environment where hundreds of other kids my age shared my enthusiasm.  Year after year, the counselors, faculty, and staff made SMC the best week of my summer, and after attending the high school session for four years, I knew that I had no desire to let that experience out of my life.  After a year working with the properties crew, I was privileged enough to be hired as a counselor.

Looking at Summer Music Clinic in this new role, I can see that nothing has changed, save the fashion styles, pop culture and technology.  The week follows a routine of morning classes with performances and free time interspersed.  To me, the most awe-inspiring quality of the camp is the equal level of joy in the campers between the music classes and the free time.  The proud look on Hannah’s face when she finally nails that tough tambourine part, or the delighted murmurs of “Cool!” and “Sweet” when Noah and Ben learn about jazz legends.  After classes, the middle schoolers are met with cheers, high fives, and songs from their counselors as they return to their dorms from the music building.  At this point, the counseling staff offers their campers a wide variety of afternoon activities, with everything from henna tattoos to dodgeball.  The lunch and evening concerts expose the kids to masterful music, as well as the possibility of where their passion can take them.  As a camper, I certainly fantasized about the possibility of playing for SMC as a guest performer.

At the outset of this year, I know exactly why I like this camp, but what makes other people, both counselors and campers, return back for another year?  According to Soren Davick, an eighth grade bass player, SMC offers the opportunity for kids to “hang out with fun, upbeat counselors, play great music all day, and meet new people.” Rachel Riese, a ninth grader playing viola, returned to the camp because of her great experience in viola group lessons with Diedre Buckley, not to mention the great time she had overall.  When asked if they planned on coming back next year, both campers responded with an emphatic “Yes!”

In order to get a full sense of the Summer Music Clinic counselor experience, I talked to counselors who had been on staff much longer than me and new counselors who are still adjusting to the routine.  Danielle Plocar, who has counseled here since I attended senior session, described this year’s middle schoolers as “amazing, mature, and energetic.”  For Keisuke Yamamoto, who joins the counseling staff for the first time, he has particularly enjoyed interacting with middle schoolers, an unfamiliar demographic to him.  Danielle loves reconnecting with returning campers and especially looks forward to the student recitals.  Keisuke hopes to connect with the kids on his wing and learn how to work better with the campers.

If you were to ask anyone who has participated in the UW-Madison Summer Music Clinic, no one would deny the presence of something magical, an intangible aura of positivity and progression through music.  Over these two weeks, I will continue to document inspiring sights, beautiful sounds, and humorous anecdotes of the events that take place here.

For photos of Summer Music Clinic, week one, check our Facebook page!

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