26 June – 8 July 2017 | DETROIT
I observed the Sphinx Overture program’s teachers during the 2017 Overture Summer Camp and conducted interviews with teachers and staff. This case study is informed by these observations and interviews as well as by my own teaching experience, which includes formal training in Suzuki pedagogy and Teaching Artistry.
SPHINX ORGANIZATION & THE OVERTURE SUMMER CAMP
The Sphinx Overture Summer Camp was created in 2016 as an extension of the Sphinx Overture program. The Sphinx Organization’s Overture Program is an academic year music and youth development program that serves nearly 250 students in 2nd and 3rd grades in 12 Flint and Detroit public schools. In 2017, the Overture Summer Camp expanded to two weeks and provided Detroit Overture students an opportunity to continue their musical study over the summer free of charge. (Flint Overture students have opportunities to attend the Flint School of Music’s summer programming on full scholarship.) The direct budget of the camp alone is approximately $25,000 (without overhead and administrative costs), with most revenue coming from foundations and grants and most of the costs devoted to faculty and transportation. The camp is a tuition free initiative for all participating students.
Within the Detroit Metro area, both Detroit Youth Volume and Detroit Symphony Orchestra youth ensembles offer substantial scholarships for students; however, summer programming is limited. Transportation remains a significant challenge for recruiting and retaining students, as most families do not own cars and public transportation is extremely limited. Moreover, the cost of bus transportation is prohibitive in the long term: almost 20% of the Sphinx Overture Summer Camp’s budget is used for transportation, which includes bringing students to and from the program and on field trips.
Over time, Sphinx’s approach to the Overture program has evolved and deepened. When founded, the focus was primarily on youth development and on using music as a tool to facilitate classroom discussion and expression of character and values such as respect, responsibility, and perseverance. Though these qualities are still central to the program, there is also a growing emphasis on musical and instrument-specific instructional quality, and the focus includes high musical standards as an integral part of youth enrichment.
The Overture Summer Camp grew out of a desire to provide students with access to enriching curricula and free musical instruction during the summer months. Originally only one week long, the camp expanded to two weeks in the summer of 2016. The camp provides full-day programming on Monday through Friday and includes violin group classes, private lessons, ensemble class, music theory, movement classes, percussion ensemble, and visits from two guest artists. Additionally, students receive two meals per day and participate in a final recital and two field trips to Detroit cultural institutions.