How to Fund Your Summer Music Camp: A Guide for Students and Parents

by Dr. Sylvie Beaudette

Director, Summer@Eastman

Summer music programs (including camps, institutes, and workshops) are fun, enlightening, and engaging, but they can be expensive: tuition is only part of the total cost. After adding housing and meals, travel, and pocket money, the costs may be prohibitive for many potential participants and their families.

Some (but not all) Summer programs offer scholarships to help with costs. If you are interested in a program, it’s always worth contacting the program office to ask if scholarships are available. You might be surprised!

Having personally experienced how a Summer program can motivate a young person to pursue a music career, I strongly feel that it is important to give anyone with musical talent and interest the opportunity to participate in such programs. Before you throw in the towel and decide that a program is too expensive for you and your family, consider the funding sources and ideas below to pay for your Summer program expenses.

BUDGET

First, you’ll need to draft a budget, which should most likely include:

            Tuition:                             $_____

            Airfare (round-trip):          $_____  (or mileage & gas, if driving)

            Room & board:                 $_____

            Pocket money:                  $_____  (estimate about $70/week, or more if you’re very social!)

            TOTAL:                              $_____

You may also encounter additional costs related to program application and attendance. Some programs might charge fees to apply, audition, or register. Programs might also charge fees to cover the costs of required COVID testing. You might need to purchase performance clothes (for example, a white shirt, black pants, and dress shoes) if a program has a strict concert dress code. Some orchestra camps will charge extra for private lessons, which can be costly. Also, you might be asked to supply your own music stand for practicing. Inquire about these items before finalizing your budget.

FINANCIAL RESOURCES TO EXPLORE

High Schools: Some high schools offer scholarships to students needing financial help. Ask your music teacher if there are such scholarships available at the school itself or through your school district, and find out how to apply (make sure you meet the application deadline!). Career / guidance counselors also might know about opportunities available for talented and motivated students.

Youth Orchestras: If you play in a youth orchestra, ask the orchestra manager if the organization has scholarship funds available to support student pursuits such as summer programs. Be prepared to provide information about the program and a budget, to help the orchestra assess your request and decide how much they can contribute to your project.

Libraries (databases): Local libraries have access to databases that Google can’t find. Make an appointment with a reference librarian and ask them to help you with research funding / scholarship opportunities for young musicians. Librarians always enjoy investigating for people and excel in exploring various sources for them.

Professional Development Funds: Summer music programs are also offered to music educators who need faculty development hours in order to keep their teaching certification current. Similarly, collegiate faculty and students may be interested in exploring a topic during the Summer, when they have more time to absorb new material. Universities often offer development grants in support of faculty or students attending Summer programs, either through Academic Affairs or other offices.

Places of Worship: Churches, temples, and mosques might have funds to support members of all ages. For organists, music directors, and choral conductors, Summer study is a great way to rejuvenate, gain confidence, and be more inspiring for parishioners. It never hurts to ask your pastor, rabbi, or imam about possible professional development support, especially if it will benefit the whole religious community.

Fundraising Concerts: Speaking of churches, ask your church or local community center if they’d let you perform a fundraising concert for your endeavor. If the church has an organist, you may want to ask him/her to accompany you (if you’re not a pianist yourself). You could also give a house concert, perform in your front yard or play from your porch or balcony: anything to get people’s attention! Use social media and all of your connections (including your music teacher) to spread the word about your concert and your goal. Enlist your friends to perform with you; they’ll bring more friends and family to the concert! Consider getting sponsorships from local businesses (see Sponsorships below), especially if you’re doing a music-a-thon!

Arts Councils: Apart from the National Endowment for the Arts and state arts organizations, cities and metropolitan areas can also support young artists through their own Community Arts Councils. Search municipal websites for information about grants, proposal requirements, and deadlines. Often, a staff member is assigned to a specific grant area and can help with your questions.

Crowdfunding: This has become an efficient way to raise money for a good cause (and encouraging a young person’s talent is a GREAT cause!). Make sure you express your goals clearly and describe how you will use the money. Say something personal so that people connect with you and believe in your dreams.

Charitable Organizations: Local organizations with “Foundation,” “Charitable Trust,” or “________ Family Fund” in their title are likely to be ones that grant money. Review an organization’s mission and grant eligibility guidelines to see if they would be a good fit (try looking for groups that support art and artists, opportunities for underprivileged children, or education). Contact them and see if they might have a current grant program for young musicians. Ask about application deadlines and find out how to apply. Stick with local organizations.

Sponsorships:  Don’t forget companies, especially local ones. They often have specific causes that they support. Don’t bother with large brands like Pepsi or Mobil, as they will only support big events or causes that give them a lot of exposure. If you patronize a particular store or work at a restaurant, ask the manager if the store / restaurant might consider sponsoring you in exchange for an ad in your concert program (see Fundraising Concerts above). Share with the manager a printed sheet with your concert details.

Selling Fundraising “Goods”:  Schools often rely on companies to provide fundraising goods (such as chocolate bars, holiday ornaments, popcorn, gift cards) for students to sell towards a common goal. As a musician, you could sell your own musical services: half-hour music lessons, a musical telegram for birthdays or special occasions, music theory tutoring, etc. Have printed vouchers with your contact information to give to people who donate. Be creative and make it fun!

Scholarships: Searching for scholarships is sometimes a shot in the dark, but it’s worth exploring. Google words such as:

            Music Scholarships High School

            Music Scholarships _______ State

            Music Scholarships Summer Camp

            Summer Music Scholarships [Instrument]

            Summer Camp Scholarships

            Etc.

You never know what you’ll find or where your search will lead.

GOOD ADVICE

Take Notes! Be sure to take ample notes so that you don’t waste time revisiting a link or lead you’ve already explored. A digital spreadsheet or a good notepad might be helpful to keep track of your searches. Note the organization or company name, contact information (name, email address, phone number), and web link, OR the scholarship name, web link, application deadline, and any other details relevant to your application. Give yourself space to add personal notes (“Emailed X on 09/21/21”; “Call back in January,” “No longer supporting arts”).

Dr. Sylvie Beaudette

Start Early! Some Summer programs’ deadlines are as early as February, but students don’t always need to commit until later after being accepted. Nevertheless, do not wait until the last minute to plan your fundraising strategies, especially if you intend to apply for scholarships that also have early deadlines. Missed deadlines might mean that you miss out on opportunities, and that’s disappointing. If you apply to a program and get accepted but cannot afford the tuition, ask if your acceptance can be deferred until the following year. This will give you and your family more time to plan and save.

Finally, it’s a good idea to share your Summer plans with lots of people; they might have leads that you and I haven’t considered! Good luck!

Dr. Sylvie Beaudette is Assistant Professor of Chamber Music at the Eastman School of Music. She is also Summer@Eastman’s director and co-chair of the Eastman Centennial Planning Committee. She is grateful to the Polyvalente Montcalm in Sherbrooke, Québec for providing, years ago, a summer music camp scholarship that sparked her musical career.