By Amarin Sharma
In July 2022, I attended a 4-week intensive strings music camp at the Fulton Summer Music Academy (FSMA) at Loyola University in Chicago. After the highly selective audition process to FSMA, I was among one of the 25 students who were selected to participate in the camp and played either the violin, viola, or cello. For each morning of the camp (from Monday to Saturday), I spent four hours practicing independently along with journaling my daily plan and goals for each day. I thoroughly enjoyed journaling as it helped me gain a better appreciation of my expectations and goals, which allowed for more efficient practicing sessions.
In the afternoons and evenings of the camp, I received performance and technique classes, music theory, private lessons, chamber music, instrument workshop classes, journaling, and masterclasses. In addition, for the first two weeks of the camp, I participated in orchestra rehearsals that culminated in two performances showcasing works by Mendelssohn, Corelli, Grieg, Golijov, Mozart, Bach, and Suk. The experience of learning and rehearsing the orchestral music for each week taught me better organizational skills as well as time management. Furthermore, music theory, performance/technique classes, and private lessons took place twice a week. Lastly, chamber music varied from week to week, with 2-5 rehearsals a week resulting in a final performance on the last day of the camp.
From private lessons to technique classes, I improved my technique, which in turn advanced my playing and my musical interpretation. Since I notably improved after 2 weeks and through the weekly auditions, I was selected to play in masterclasses for Karen Gomyo and Addison Teng. This experience provided me with the insight on how to bring a musical piece to life by employing techniques such as singing, listening to the piano part, labeling the sections with emotions, and much more. I am beyond grateful for this experience because I was able to focus on what I wanted to improve along with professional instruction and continuous feedback.
Every Wednesday during the camp, I had an instrument workshop class with Michael Darnton and Julian Hersh from Darnton and Hersh Fine Violins. I learned about the history of string instruments and learned how to take care of my instrument. I became very fascinated by the history lessons when I learned about Guarneri Del Gesu, Gaudagnini, Antonio Stradivari, and Amati. Mr. Hersh demonstrated side by side examples of the different instruments throughout the music periods and explained how little features would make a significant difference in sound. The placement of the F holes by different luthiers and the use of different types of wood impacted the tone quality and sound. The information that was provided during these instrument workshops provided a wonderful experience to learn about some of the most famous luthiers and how they designed instruments.
Furthermore, chamber group was an experience like no other. The chamber group members and the music assigned was based on the camp audition. My quartet played the Bacewicz Quartet for 4 Violins. Something unique about this chamber experience was that no single coach was assigned to each chamber group; however, all faculty would take turns to provide coaching and feedback to the groups. I found this experience distinctive and rewarding because it allowed our group to come up with our own ideas of how to make the piece very musical, and the faculty further supported us in our endeavor. After many rehearsal hours, my chamber group performed on the last day for the public, closing out the wonderful camp.
Lastly, I cannot say enough great things about this camp as I improved drastically throughout the camp. I am very grateful for the opportunities that this camp offered, allowing me to develop my music and in life. The students and faculty were also very supportive and they encouraged the students to reach out for help when needed. I highly recommend this camp as it refined me as a person and as a musician.