If you want children to stick to music, they have to start in early middle school, says Madison music teacher Lucas Hrovat-Staedter.
“If you could catch kids at 6th or 7th grade, you would have them for a long time,” Hrovat-Staedter says. “You could take a kid that wasn’t necessarily the most skilled, but was passionate about it you can open their eyes to what music can be.”
However, many families in Madison and throughout Wisconsin can’t afford to send their children to additional music lessons outside of school. Anne Aley, outreach program manager for the Summer Music Clinic at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wants to change that.
“We love providing an incredible summer music experience to students, but we know there are many students who can’t afford the course fees,” Aley says. “We’re developing a more robust scholarship program to make the camp accessible to as many interested students as possible.”
A Yearly Tradition
The Summer Music Clinic, in its 86th year, is a two-week summer camp held on the UW-Madison campus. The clinic occurs in two parts: the first section for middle school children (this year June 21-27) and the second for high school students (June 28-July 3). This year, the clinic welcomes more than 850 students.
Approximately 10 percent of the clinic students have financial need. For the past 16 years, the clinic has been able to offer yearly scholarship in the name of former director Dale Gilbert. Interest income from an endowment provides the scholarship funding each year; the clinic created the endowment using a combination of private gifts and a grant from the Evjue Foundation.
This year, they clinic provided awards totaling $1,115. Clinic fees can range from $383 to $648.
Students can also receive funding from the Department of Public Instruction, which offers scholarships to students eligible for free/reduced lunch in order to attend precollege programs.
Although the clinic doesn’t yet know how much DPI funding will be allotted for the program, Aley estimates that the clinic will be unable to provide scholarships to approximately 20 middle and high school students next year.
A Need in Madison
Hrovat-Staedter, who teaches choir and general music at Cherokee Middle School in Madison and is an alumnus of the Summer Music Clinic, recognizes the economic challenge many of his students face.
“I’m at a school that’s really polarized in terms of socio-economics,” Hrovat-Staedter says. “There are a lot of middle and upper-middle class students, and then also a lot of students living below the poverty-line. If there was a way to offer more scholarships—not even full scholarships, but partial scholarships, for students—I think more families would be able to make that work,” Hrovat-Staedter says.
Trevor Maliborski, an alumnus of the Summer Music Clinic and a sophomore at UW-Madison majoring in music education says the scholarship he received to attend the clinic helped ease the financial strain on his family. He received the scholarship for the summer between his senior year of high school and college, a time when many families are under financial pressure.
“My parents are super supportive, and they wanted me to just do everything,” Maliborski says. “The scholarship really took away a lot of the stress—it let me enjoy everything without having to worry or making my parents worry.”
Maliborski also talked about how important it is for students interested in music to branch out beyond academic music programs and meet other young musicians.
“Unfortunately I think we see too many kids just quitting music because they’re only in their school music program, which are great fundamental programs, but you can only get so much out of a high school band program alone,” he says. “You need to supplement your learning with camps, a youth symphony, or youth music ensemble.”
From Summer Music Clinic to Music Education
For many students, the Summer Music Clinic sparks a lifelong love of music. Both Maliborski and Hrovat-Staedter say the clinic help solidify a career in music education.
“It was a great experience for me, someone who was still trying to figure out who they were as a musician,” Maliborski says. “Having gone to the clinic at such a formative point in my life was really important. It helped me figure out what I wanted to do.”
For Hrovat-Staedter, the clinic contributed to his desire to teach music, but more importantly helped him figure out his place in the world as a young adult.
“I didn’t necessarily have a community back at my high school that could just get together and make music,” Hrovat-Staedter says. “It was exactly what I needed at that point in my life. I fell in love with it.”
To make a gift to the Summer Music Scholarship fund, visit the UW Foundation website.