PART 1: Classical Performance & Composition Summer Programs
I have selected the next 6 programs on this list based on the following:
– Faculty are either professionals in major music organizations, such as opera houses or symphonic orchestras, and/or faculty at major music colleges.
– Alumni of the programs consistently place into top conservatories and university music schools.
– The musical offerings at the institute are superb.
– Reputation is exceptionally favorable.
– Students are consistently happy with their experiences at the programs.
Interlochen Arts Academy (Interlochen, MI)
Interlochen is perhaps the gold standard for summer music programs in the US. While it is not the most selective program on this list in terms of acceptance rate, it is also not easy to gain admission into it.
What makes Interlochen fascinating are a few notable things.
One, it is absolutely huge…
A conglomeration of diverse young artists from dozens of countries flock to Interlochen every summer to study a range of interests.
In addition to performers and composers, the summer program also hosts students interested in audio production, dance, creative writing, filmmaking, animation, painting, theatre performance, and even metalsmithing!
The fact that high school music students can interact with personalities across a variety of professional disciplines at such a young age is hugely beneficial to their future potential lives as well as understanding of the arts as a while.
Two, the teachers are incredible.
Interlochen’s music faculty is comprised of a mix of both professors from major collegiate institutions as well as musicians performing in the real-world. Gaining exposure to this type of training at the high school level proves to be invaluable for nearly any musical student.
National Youth Orchestra (New York, NY)
Years ago, for the high school musician one day desiring training in an orchestral setting, it was unclear which summer program was the most coveted in the US.
Now, it is clear: the National Youth Orchestra.
Why is admission and participated so highly coveted?
Firstly, it is 100% tuition-free; sponsorships come from corporations and other organizations invested in the arts.
Secondly, students are provided an opportunity to perform throughout the country world. In 2016 alone, high school students performed in New York City, Amsterdam, Montpelier (France), Copenhagen, and Prague. All students are between the ages of 16 – 19; to be this age and perform with an orchestra is a stunning achievement very few get the honor of accomplishing at any age.
Lastly, students perform not just with other talented high school students; they also perform with some of the most notable names in classical music today.
Throughout the history of the program, guest artists with the orchestra included Joshua Bell & Gil Shaham, world-renowned violinists, Emmanuel Ax, pianist and instructor at Juilliard, and Denis Matsuev, another leading interpreter of piano repertoire.
The conductors of the orchestra each year are among the most accomplished in the world, including Valery Gergiev, Christoph Eschenbach, and Charles Dutoit.
NOTE: This is the only program in this section that does not have a composition division.
Boston University Tanglewood Institute (Lenox, MA)
Every year, some of the world’s top young talent studying all facets classical music, from orchestral musicians, chamber players, composers, vocalists come to the serene setting that is Lenox, Massachusetts.
You simply have to experience Tanglewood to know Tanglewood. When we professionals think of where classical music lives in today’s world, we think of the busyness of New York City, the bustling cities in which our top orchestras and chorales perform, and the busy institutions themselves that teach students music.
Tanglewood is, to put it bluntly, a magical wonderland where nature meets classical music.
There is nothing else quite like it in the whole world.
So let’s talk about the actual musical offerings…
Students have access to some of the world’s best teachers in their instruments.
Some notable faculty members of the program who are also performers in major music organizations include David Krauss, trumpeter in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Mike Roylance, tubist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Sam Solomon, and Kai-Yung Lu, principal clarinetist of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
What you should know about Tanglewood is how selective it is; as one of the most popular summer programs in the country for classical music, it rejects far more applications than it accepts into its selective ensembles and institutes.
Curtis Summerfest (Philadelphia, PA)
How would you like to go to a summer program at the world’s most selective college music program?
As many of my readers know, Curtis is indeed the most difficult college program in the world to gain admission into: just 3% of the applicants gain an acceptance letter.
To put that in perspective, 1 in 33 who apply end up attending.
This being said, the summer program, while selective, is not nearly as difficult to get into as the actual college program. That said, it is among the best programs in the country for a high school musician to attend.
For a high school student to experience the offerings of a premiere conservatory located in a major city of the arts while studying with renowned faculty makes this Summerfest a highlighted program on this particular list.
Some of the faculty teach at Curtis themselves, while some of the faculty teach at other top schools & come to instruct in the summer program.
I’ve had advanced student clients in the composition, instrumental, and voice programs at Curtis; they all said the program was both challenging as well as musically invigorating. A definite consideration for the advanced high school student.
Idyllwild Arts Academy (Idyllwild, CA)
Idyllwild is similar to Interlochen in a few ways. Both are housed on the campuses of performing arts high schools. Both are huge, with Idyllwild’s program consisting of 2,000+ students not just in music, but a wide variety of artistic disciplines.
Like the other programs on this list, the faculty at this program are of principal attraction to many young musicians. One of the faculty luminaries regarded among the best teachers in his instrument is Yehuda Gilad, clarinet instructor at both the University of Southern California as well as the Colburn School, an undergraduate conservatory program tuition-free to all accepted.
Other faculty members include principal members of orchestras, major soloists, studio performance legends, and even teachers at the high school program itself.
Castleman Quartet Program (Fredonia, NY)
The Castleman Quartet Program has had an unusual influence on professional classical music. An astounding 86 professional or semi-professional orchestras have at least one player that attended the program. Additionally, 100+ professional chamber music groups have at least one player active or alumnus who attended the Castleman Quartet Program.
For a program that only accepts 32 participants in a given year, that statistic is outstanding. Even Yo-Yo Ma called it “the best program of its kind.”
Founded by renowned teacher and accomplished violinist Charles Castleman in 1970, violin professor at Eastman for four decades, students come to the program for up to seven weeks to perform chamber and concerto repertoire at the highest level with other students.
Historically, legendary musicians such as Itzhak Perlman and Josef Gingold have presented masterclasses at the program. Present day faculty in the program include teachers at Eastman, Frost School of Music, McGill University, and Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music.
Students in the program are placed into a chamber ensemble of other musicians for up to three weeks at a time. With practicing & rehearsing, students can expect to perform 7-8 hours daily. Participants include high-level string & woodwind chamber musicians.
Brevard Music Center (Brevard, NC)
What Tanglewood is to the northeast US Brevard is to the south.
Four-hundred students each year enroll at this summer program situated in an idyllic part of North Carolina. Students reside and perform on 180 acres of wooded campus.
The summer festival itself is open to the public, with over 50,000+ people audience members attending the music center’s productions each year.
The faculty itself is drawn from top-tier conservatories, universities, and professional orchestras. There is both an adult institute as well as a high school division in this program.
Famous alumni of the program in Roberto Diaz, violist and faculty member at the Curtis Institute of Music, Keith Lockhart, conductor with the Boston Pops Orchestra for over 20+ years, and David Daniels, professional countertenor.
On the next page, I outline part 2 of this list, specifically two specialty programs in classical voice