Arts & Entertainment

New Jersey Youth Symphony Summer Orchestra Camp

May 2, 2013 at 2:07 PM

“If children are willing to continue their music education, then we will make it fun.” This is the philosophy of Diana Charos Reilly, director of New Jersey Youth Symphony’s summer camps Orchestral Camp and Tune-up Camp. New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS), one of the foremost youth orchestras in the country, has 10 orchestras and ensembles for children in grades 3 through 12 who participate coincident with the school year. In the summer, NJYS offers a concentrated and enriching experience at its Orchestral Camp, a highlight of the summer that has been running for 12 years. It is no small feat to organize a camp of approximately 60 students, but Ms. Charos Reilly along with her team of NJYS conductors, including Mark Gunderman, Kristen Wuest, Martha Nowick, and Bryan Rudderow, and about 20 staff members and student volunteers strive to make it an extraordinary experience. An alumnus of NJYS, Ms. Charos Reilly serves as Artistic Coordinator and Flute Conductor during NJYS’s regular season.

Orchestral camp, a two-week intensive camp that meets from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. June 30 through July 13, is open to students entering grades 5 through 9 in the 2013-14 academic year. For musicians new to NJYS, an audition is required primarily for ensemble placement. Lunch, beverages, and snacks are provided. At the end of camp, students perform in two concerts: one is a chamber music recital and the other includes all orchestras, ensembles, and a chorus.

A breakdown of the day begins with yoga and breathing exercises followed by a collective gathering for orchestra rehearsal conducted by Mark Gunderman. On select days of the week, campers are grouped by instruments and learn essential instrument maintenance and techniques. Chorus, led by Martha Nowick, is a mandatory component in which all students participate as the voice is also an instrument. Stretching and physical activity is encouraged alongside learning music. Campers play tennis at the New Providence Health and Racquet club across the street. “Music is like a sport. Students learn to stretch their muscles,” notes Kristen Wuest, Flute Choir conductor and flute instructor of Orchestral Camp.

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After a catered lunch, campers break up into their respective chamber music ensembles to practice in a more intimate group. The day usually ends with another collective orchestra rehearsal. In total, the campers play for nearly 8 hours and are still motivated for more! “Kids feel such a sense of responsibility to each other that they go home and practice,” Diana explains. “They also just love the music. The staff is inspired by the kids and the kids are inspired by each other.” The strong sense of community and the close and constant interaction among everyone—campers, conductors and student volunteers—working in a warm environment keeps everyone enthused. 

Camp is usually a flurry of activity designed to continually stimulate young musicians intellectually as well as physically. Each day is individually themed to give the students something extra to look forward to. Last year’s themes included superheroes, favorite musicians, and crazy hat day. The primary focus is always music and within the larger structure of the day is a fluid micro-system of private instrumental lessons, mini concerts, music theory, and ear training classes, improvisation exercises, and an instrument-doubling program where campers can try out a new instrument. “It’s an intense, but meaningful time for both campers and staff. We call it the most wonderful time of the year,” Ms. Charos Reilly says with a smile.

Orchestral Camp finishes with two finale concerts. The Chamber Music recital is held the last Friday of camp and the orchestral concert is held on Saturday. The young musicians play sophisticated pieces such as Semper Fidelis by John Philip Sousa, the Marriage of Figaro Overture by Mozart and themes from Beethoven Symphony No. 5. Orchestral camp is the number one recruiting tool for the NJYS school year with many new campers joining the NJYS family for the upcoming school year.

Tune-Up Camp for students entering grades 4 through 8 who want to get in musical shape for the upcoming school year begins August 12 and runs through 23. No audition is required. Chamber music, solo and duo performances, talent shows, and team building and art classes are offered during the half-day camp.

For more information on Orchestral camp or Tune-up camp, call 908.771.5544 or visit

New Jersey Youth Symphony is the orchestral and ensemble division of Wharton Music Center, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS) is located at 570 Central Avenue in New Providence. NJYS, one of the foremost youth orchestras in the state, has ten orchestras and ensembles for which auditions are held annually. NJYS’s premiere orchestra, Youth Symphony, has performed in internationally-renowned concert halls such as Carnegie Hall in New York City and Musikverein in Vienna.

Wharton Music Center, located at 60 Locust Avenue in Berkeley Heights, provides music, theater, and dance instruction, educational programs, and performances for children, teens, and adults. In addition to instruction in all instruments and voice, WMC offers classes in musical theater, drama, choral music, vocal music, music theory, audio recording, early childhood music, and music for children with special needs. Offering a range of musical genres including classical, rock, jazz, and blues, WMC is one of New Jersey’s largest independent non-profit community music centers serving students in Union, Morris, Essex, Somerset, Middlesex, and surrounding counties.

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