It was a day after Arts Camp: The Art of Nature had wrapped up last summer. The high school volunteers and I had just finished our end-of-the-day meeting. As I sat at my desk, I heard jazz. I assumed that our house manager was setting up for an evening event and had turned on music in the lobby; I soon realized that two of our Arts Camp “Green Shirts”—aka high school volunteers—had stayed behind and were in a whirlwind jam session. Brandon, a student from Waukesha North High School, was playing his saxophone while Dante, from Milwaukee High School for the Arts, decided to hop on piano. I didn’t find out until a year later that that moment would turn out to be quite memorable for both. Brandon had never found himself in such an improvisational duet, and Dante knew that what had organically happened was a special moment.
I recently had an opportunity to “talk camp” with both of them. Whether you are a high school student interested in applying to be a Green Shirt at Arts Camp 2015, a parent who is considering registering your student as a camper, or would just like to reminisce about your own wonderful camp memories from childhood, I am sure you will enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!
If a high school student is on the fence about applying to be a Green Shirt (student volunteer), what would you say to him/her?
Dante: I experienced things that I have never done before. It’s amazing to see how kids’ minds open up. The whole nature hike thing… I’ve never done that—ever!
Brandon: I had done camp counseling [at another organization] in the past. I was a group leader, and I didn’t like it. I was on edge about applying. This camp was different. You really get a chance to spend a lot of time with a certain group of kids and get to know them.
Why should families sign up their child for camp?
Brandon: It’s a totally new experience. Know they will be in a totally safe and encouraging environment. Kids don’t even know what they are interested in until they try it. This camp allows them to discover their interests. You can tell when something really clicks with them!
Why do you think kids connect with the arts?
Brandon: Art is a way to find what you enjoy. One interest leads to another. When I was a kid I saw my music teacher play all of these different instruments, and it blew my mind. Kids need to experience art. It opens up a whole new world.
Dante: I feel like everybody is different. The arts are a way to express yourself in your own way. Everybody connects with something. If you have the right mindset, you can have a lot of new interests.
Are there any camp stories that really stick out in your memory?
Dante: I remember this very clearly. We were outside during free time, and some campers found a spider—a giant spider. All the campers were so fascinated by this spider. They ran from outside to inside to find Miss Pat [nature specialist] to tell her and find out more about it.
What is your favorite part of camp?
Brandon: There is so much I like about camp! I really enjoyed it.
Dante: The last day when we do the performances. I love that day! Everybody gets to come out. But playing with Brandon was number one on my list.
Remembering back to your improvisational duet last summer, can we book you both to play for the campers this summer?
Dante: I would love that!
Brandon: I think the kids really enjoyed the Green Shirts sharing their talents. To see them do their art encourages them to pursue their own interests.
Brandon is attending the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in the fall for music education. Dante is enrolled in the Air Force Academy and later on down the road, plans to study music at a conservatory. They are currently making plans to attend one another’s music recital at their schools.