Summer Music Experience makes long awaited return to Prince Albert

After a two-year layoff, the Summer Music Experience Camp has returned to Prince Albert, and the organizers and instructors couldn’t be happier.

A total of 64 students enrolled in the four-day camp, which ended with a concert at W.J. Berezowsky School on July 28. After being forced to go virtual the last two years, camp coordinator Pamela Cochet said it was great to be back with students in the classroom.

“I am overjoyed,” Cochet said. “COVID shut us down for two years, and we are so excited that Prince Albert is the location again this year.”

In a regular year, Summer Music Experience Camps would be held across the province, however, Prince Albert is the only city holding one in 2022. The camps typically focus on teaching students who haven’t been exposed to massed bands or choral music, and Cochet said it’s a good way get them hooked.

“In order for them to learn some appreciation for the music and the different kinds of things, I think it’s important that they learn what the instruments are,” she explained. “They learn how much fun it can be to play it.”

Several local musicians like Dean Bernier and Lauren Lohneis were on hand to help out with the instruction. Students had two days to experience everything from strings to horns to choral music before choosing one area to focus on for the next two days.

The camp ended with a live concert for family, friends, and program sponsors. Cochet said that’s an important part of teaching music, and something they’ve sorely missed since the start of COVID-19.

“We had talked about doing a virtual concert rather than an in-person one, and there are so many kids who are saying, ‘no, we want to get back to doing it live. We want to get back to being able to show off all of the things that we’re learning to our families in a live setting.’”

Cochet said the last two years have been difficult for music teachers, especially those teaching musicians who perform in mass, and it’s not just the education aspect that got tougher. A big bonus for students taking part in music experience camps is the chance to meet new people and make new friends, while also developing a love for music. The former has been extremely difficult as long as music performances remained online.

“You can only do so much virtually,” Cochet explained. “When you have someone and their infectious energy for the love of the music, that certainly has made a difference, and we’ve lacked that.

It’s disappeared over the last two years because we didn’t have concerts. We didn’t have the in-person things happening until it just started returning.”

That has made the return even more exciting for Cochet, who spent many years in Prince Albert as a music teacher. She’s optimistic that programs like this one can rebound, as long as sponsors keep supporting it, and music teachers keep providing their services.

SaskCulture has been a major supporter of the program since 2013. The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division also provided a major boost by allowing the use of Berezowsky School and the instruments inside for free.

Cochet said SIGA and the Firebird Music Program out of King George School were also vital in getting the music camp going again.

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