PORT TOWNSEND — A pay-what-you-can music camp for youngsters in fifth grade on up through high school — beginners included — will arrive soon on the campus at Fort Worden State Park.
“I’m looking forward to getting kids back into music,” said Daniel Ferland, one of 10 teachers poised to offer the first Youth Education in Arts (YEA) Music Camp, which has three sessions: June 28 through July 2, July 26-30 and Aug. 16-20.
The suggested donation is $10 per day for instruction and practice from 9 a.m. until noon weekdays, but no one will be turned away, Ferland emphasized.
Information and registration can be found at YEAmusic.org.
Young musicians from anywhere on the North Olympic Peninsula are welcome, he said.
All sessions will be outdoors and socially distanced. Instruction will be available in a variety of formats, from chamber ensemble and jazz band to fiddle playing and drumming.
“The level of instructors is absolutely amazing,” said Ferland, who teaches music at Port Townsend High School.
Fellow YEA Music Camp teachers and coaches include Port Townsend native Matt McBride-Daline, now a professor of music at Ohio’s Bowling Green University; his wife, Pei-Hsuan Chung, who has a doctorate in piano performance; Port Townsend’s Gwen Franz, whose Ph.D. is in viola performance, and Mike McLeron, a veteran music educator who plays tuba in the Port Townsend Summer Band and double bass in the Port Townsend Symphony Orchestra.
Kristin Smith, a longtime Port Townsend music teacher who performs in the Port Angeles and Port Townsend symphony orchestras, is likewise eager to play with young musicians this summer at the fort.
“Many of our instructors are donating time to help get this year’s first series of camps up and running,” Ferland noted.
Music classes in schools across the county were suspended last year amid the pandemic. In the ensuing months, Ferland noted, YEA Music, a registered nonprofit since 2018, has provided Zoom lessons to help keep students playing — and connected them with teachers for private lessons.
As for this summer’s camp, Ferland, Smith and the YEA team want novices, too, in the program Ferland calls “very, very inclusive.”
“Beginners will have different instruments to try,” he added.
Brandon Rittenour, a cellist who is earning a music education degree at Walla Walla University, contacted Ferland earlier this year about becoming a YEA instructor. After learning of Rittenour’s experience as a coach and performer, Ferland brought him on board.
Rittenour said his studies in cello and participation in orchestra led him to fall in love with music; he went on to coach cello and chamber performance at summer music programs across the state.
He’s discovered his passion: supporting the development of young musicians.
Funding for YEA Music Camp comes from a Spark Joy grant provided by the Better Living through Giving circle, part of the Jefferson Community Foundation, Ferland noted. The Port Townsend Music Boosters club is also supporting the camp while Centrum is partnering with the organization to provide space at Fort Worden.
The original funding to start the YEA program in Jefferson County included support from the Kiwanis Club and Elks Lodge. Those service groups funded activities a well as the purchase of instruments for youngsters who wouldn’t otherwise have access.
The YEA teaching model is based on the El Sistema music programs, which originated in South America during the 1970s. The method is based on the idea of social change through music and the value of rich, positive musical experiences for all children, regardless of background.
In 2019, Ferland was invited to be a guest conductor of an El Sistema program with a youth orchestra in Costa Rica.
“I was blown away,” he said, by the enthusiasm the kids had for making music together.
The pandemic has been especially hard on local music programs, so the goal of the camps is to support young musicians and recruit new students, Ferland added.
Julie Russell, retired Blue Heron Middle School dean, is the YEA program executive director — and a former music student.
“My music education and experiences were an important part of developing my confidence, perseverance and social skills,” she said, adding YEA Music has long-term goals of establishing youth performing groups in Jefferson County.
Those could an honor youth jazz ensemble, a youth symphony and a youth choir.
YEAmusic.org has information about supporting those plans.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]