Young musicians build friendships at NKU music program

The summer programs sponsored by NKU’s Music Preparatory Department are teaching musicians of all ages a variety of skills that encourage them to develop their talents and love of the arts.

All four programs begin in late June and include the NKU String Project Camp, Summer Music Institute, Mainstage Musical Theatre and Voice Camp and Adventures in Music.

12-year-old Lily Carrier, a cello player, participated in the String Project Camp for the first time last summer and said she loved it.

She enjoyed the different activities that the teachers had planned and felt like she made real friends there.

“We got to work on songs that we had never done before and we got to learn a lot of cool techniques. The camp also really helps you grow close to friends and helps you grow close to your instrument because you spend a lot more time with it,” Carrier said.

Monica Stephens, 17, plays mainly flute but also guitar and piano. She participated once in the summer programs in 2012 for the Summer Music Institute and plans to go back this year.

She said she likes the variety of instruments that are played throughout the time spent there.

“It incorporates everybody, not just string players, not just wind players,” Stephens said.

Stephens also said she felt that she improved as a musician just within that week, and she encourages other kids to take advantage of these summer programs as well.

“They might not get to have these opportunities during the school year as they would during the summer. It prepares you for fall rehearsals too,” said Stephens.

The camps also employ a few NKU students like senior Rachael Gasser, a music education major, who is a teaching assistant for the Summer Music Institute and the String Project Summer Camp.

“I have always been a fan of music. I started piano when I was like five so I’ve kind of always been around it,” Gasser said. “But I think that music can speak to anyone. They call it the universal language and it can just create different emotions and express different feelings.”

This is her first full year working with the String Project, a year-round program that sponsors one of the camps.

According to Gasser, for each summer program, there are electives students can take where teachers go above and beyond of what may be taught in a general music classroom.

Gasser also added that, in the String Project, the teaching assistants run sectionals on Saturdays and they have a general lesson plan outline of what to work on with the students through repetition and different playing techniques.

She believes modeling and showcasing a higher level of musicianship can motivate students.

Dr. Amy Gillingham, an NKU music faculty member and  cello player, oversees the camps but works most directly with Summer Music Institute and String Project Camp.

This is her third year of being involved with the summer programs.

“We try to give [the students] an experience with elements that aren’t just related to their instrument to make them better as a total musician in general so we teach things like music theory and conducting,” Gillingham said.

She said she does feel students are better prepared for the academic year because the summer programs keep them current on their instrument and prevent them from “getting rusty.”

“Another thing that we really try to do in the prep department is we don’t want to just teach people an instrument. A lot of times we try to equip, especially the youth, with more confidence in what they do and kind of help build some friendships in what they’re doing as well,” Gillingham said. “So, we try to keep a positive teaching philosophy where we reward things that are good rather than focusing on some of the things that are bad.”

Gillingham also encourages others to be involved in the programs because they are there for any person with an interest in music.

“The Music Prep. Department is for anybody in the community that wants to study music so it’s not just college students; you don’t take it for credit,” Gillingham said. “Whether it’s youth or adults that want to either learn an instrument, learn voice, do something with music, it’s used to prepare people to go to college or for a career but it’s really for all ages and all levels.”

For more information on the Music Prep. Department and the Summer Music programs, visit