I woke up this morning in a college apartment next to the Willamette University campus. It was a little after 6:00, and although I tried to close my eyes again, I couldn’t go back to sleep. A small part of that was my allergies refusing to let me fall back asleep, but most of it was excitement. This is the third year I have had the privilege to be the violin instructor here at the Young Musicians and Artists camp here in Salem.
YMA was originally described to me as a great summer camp where the students are wonderful and you work really hard. This was fine to me at the time – paychecks during the summer are hard to come by, and when I was originally offered the job, I jumped at the chance. It’s turned out to be two of my favorite weeks of the year. The philosophy behind YMA not only involves music, it involves community, acceptance, and cynicism being left by the door. The kiddos who are musicians aren’t often the most popular people in their regular lives; I myself am a former misfit. When you’re a kid, it’s odd to wear your heart on your sleeve. It’s hard to explain why you enjoy the arts so much, because when pressed, you may accidentally blurt out something amazing like, “I love the way it makes me feel!” This is a sentence that’s low hanging fruit for bullies, and can easily make you the subject of ridicule. Once you reach college and decide to major in the arts, you are surrounded with like-minded people, and you can begin the process of accepting the fact that you’re one of those unabashed feelers. But before then, it’s a little rough going, and you feel a need for a tiny bit of protection of who you are inside.
At YMA, everyone is like-minded, no matter what their interests are and where their heart truly lies. Before every meal, we sing a song that repeats the phrase “we are one” several times. It’s never met with giggles – in fact, by the end of the two weeks, it’s met with multi-part harmony.
Faculty reported to camp yesterday, and this afternoon is when the kiddos arrive. We’ll have auditions and our first meal together, and what happens past that is pretty darn magical. I’m so happy we’ve reached this time of year again.