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Hosting a Summer Symposium

Summer Symposium

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Have you ever considered hosting a summer symposium? Do you have camp experience? Does your school have an active and supportive parental team? Are there facility and financial resources available to you over the summer? All of these are important to consider when crafting a plan to host a summer symposium.

The benefits of hosting a summer symposium include:
  1. Additional performance opportunity
  2. Recruitment opportunity
  3. Private/small group instruction by professional musicians
  4. Student leadership opportunities
  5. Community involvement
  6. More focus on collaboration
  7. Strengthening musical skills
  8. Perform with student musicians at various levels
  9. Networking with other music educators
Goal Outline

The process of planning a summer symposium can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. Regardless, make sure the plan is thorough. The success of the event lies in the details. Firstly, create an outline of your goals that you would like in the symposium that is realistic. Realistic goals can be in many different forms.

Choosing Dates

Choosing dates are necessary and should be set on the school’s calendar as early as possible. My recommendation is that if you have never hosted a music symposium start with the one that lasts five days for 2-5 hours a day. Remember most events like this conclude with a performance and rehearsal time is precious.

In addition, try not to set dates over times that are too close to the end or start of school. More importantly, don’t set your dates over other music camps that could involve music students needing to make a choice over one or the other.

Survey Students

Next, survey your students. Find out how many student musicians at your school are interested in participating. Instrumentation and student numbers should be evaluated and considered in your overall plan.

After that, have established the number of students, instrumentation, and facilities that will be in use. Do you have costs for facilities, transportation, snacks, custodians, instructors, or other event-oriented fees? Is the school paying, or are the students? Perhaps you received a grant? As a result of your situation, you may be able to host a camp completely free of fees. Consequently, this will impact the type of experience your students receive.

Create a Schedule

Now, create a schedule. At this point, this should be a general /logistical plan for when things should happen. Consider transitions, group rehearsals, snacking, ice breakers, and break times when creating your schedule. Time, staff, and resources are essential considerations whenever rehearsal or performance setups need to occur.

Next, consider your musicians and audience. Evaluate the ability level of your weaker players. Consider the number of influential musicians you have. I would recommend playing a music selection that the weaker players can play. Despite having a much shorter time for rehearsal, your stronger musicians should be able to bring up the musical presence quickly.

Secondly, consider that students are giving up a portion of their summer break to perform. Perhaps make the selection of music theme based. At the very least add some fun music that the musicians and audience can appreciate. Remember, the summer is an excellent time for student musicians to reinforce why they love music. Use every opportunity to create a positive aesthetic response.


Have a strong staff, no wait, have great staff. If resources allow hiring fully knowledgeable, strong teachers that meet the goals of the symposium and make learning fun… This creates a positive culture for the week and creates memories that force students to want to come back the next year. Ideally, have a staff member for every type of instrument. If this is not possible then consolidate so that the staff covers a bigger category of instrument I.e. brass, woodwind, strings, etc.)

Camp Week

Finally, the week of the symposium arrives. Constantly, follow up with the schedule and staff to make sure things are running smoothly. Be sure you meet with instructors, student leadership and lead parent volunteers at the end of each day. Reflect and consider if activities need to be tweaked for the upcoming day.

Closing Comments

Hosting a summer symposium is a rewarding project. After all loose ends are tied up you will find the rewards far outweigh the additional time and effort that is required to make the event a success. If hosting a symposium interest you, feel free to comment and we can share ideas. Till next time, keep investing in yourself and your student’s future!

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