The annual Warren County Summer Music School program in Warren has evolved into something far greater than the sum of its parts.
Held at the Warren Area Elementary Center, classes include an Actors Lab, Ballroom Dancing, Drawing is a Skill, Introduction to Watercolors, Instrument Repair I and II, Yoga and more, in addition to traditional and non-traditional musical instruction.
The approximately 140 students range in age from fifth grade students to three adults, one of whom is nearly 90 years old.
Times Observer photo by Rob Andersen
Stringing a melody
Storm Sivak plucks a melody on a harp at the Warren County Summer Music School. Three classes for harps are being taught, Harp I, II and Harp Choir. There are many class choices for student, some beyond music like art, instrument repair and yoga.
Ann Mead, the director of the program, said the school offers a broad spectrum of multi-disciplinary arts that is liquid and ever-changing. "If you are growing, the status quo is not acceptable. It's a metamorphosis of classes and curriculum. By offering the kids this broad spectrum, we provide a positive experience that will affect them for life."
"It's like a mini-Chautauqua, in a way. We broaden the artistic experiences in more than music," she added.
She explained how the school got its start, saying, "Twenty-five years ago, Kay Logan, the wife of Harry A. Logan Jr., who was the owner of United Refining, came to me after his passing. He had an idea that there should be a project in the community that would benefit from the largess of his estate. She said, 'I would like to find a project. Here is a grant, make it work'."
"I went to Dan Harpster, who had the summer band camp. With a select committee and Dan, we developed an idea for a five-period music school. After Dan retired, a consultant from the Eastman School of Music was our mentor for the first ten years," she said.
She said that the school has developed over the years with suggestions from students, interns and faculty members for new classes, based on the needs of the students.
One of the new classes added this year is music production, taught by Tyler McClain.
"Our goal in this class is to get them to think like a producer. We learned what makes a good balance between highs and lows, treble and bass with mid-ranges that aren't muffled," he said.
They also explored three-dimensional stereo imaging, placing the sounds to the left, right or in the middle, nearby or farther away.
McClain explained that today's music is digital, produced by software and programmed using MIDI, or Musical Instrument Digital Interface. He said with today's software, of which there are many brands, you fake any musical instruments, including vocals.
"You can literally talk into a microphone and make it sing. It's studio magic," he said.
McClain said they created a "sample," by recording the sound made by dropping a chair, then manipulating it digitally for percussion effects.
As wonderful as the software is, composing and thinking about what makes good music is the key, he noted.
Mead said some faculty members come from the local area, some from other areas in Pennsylvania, and some from New York State. She said the school's board strives to get good musicians to teach, but the real qualifications are for team players and teachers who build a good rapport with the students.
The school runs through this Friday.