Each year, the AAAPTG Foundation provides a grant to an individual or organization to support musical activities or education in the community. A 2016 grant was awarded to the Brightmoor Arts Camp, a music day camp for students in the Detroit area. The program was impressive and worthy, and in January 2019 the Foundation provided a second grant for the 2019 program. The following interview with Ben Greenberg, DIrector of Resource Development for the camp, offers insights into camp activities and purpose.
Brightmoor Arts Camp 2016 Report
1. It looks like Seven Mile Music is a volunteer organization run by students at the University of Michigan. Is this correct? How did it get started?
Seven Mile Music is a volunteer organization run by students at the University of Michigan which started in 2013. The organization was founded by Sam Saunders, a piano performance and composition major. Sam started the group as a reaction to news that Detroit Public Schools defunded all arts programs. As a music major, he knew first-hand how transformative music could be for children. The first trips consisted of Sam and three other volunteers from the University who taught only four or five students each week. Today, our summer camp services about 80 children and our year-round program transports over 40 volunteers from the university to service over 50 children each week.
2. How do you pick your teachers – are they all volunteers? Are students outside the School of Music Theater and Dance eligible to teach?
For our summer camp, our educational staff is comprised of accomplished, elder musicians from the Brightmoor area, decorated high-school musicians from Detroit, and University of Michigan (U-M) Music Education and Music Performance students. Hiring a diverse team not only supports various areas of the arts economy, but exposes our children to the vast possibilities of a future in music.
For our year-round program, our educational staff are volunteers with a vast musical experience, whether they be SMTD students or students from the greater University with a fervor to pass on their musical knowledge. There is no class requirement, however, we require that our teachers go through training sessions first at the beginning of each semester, and then throughout the semester as refreshers. Our student volunteers also often opt to engage with various committees that help the organization’s development.
3. When does the camp run – summers only, or year round? How many years has it been in existence?
The camp itself runs for eight weeks in the summer and has existed for the last two summers, 2015 and 2016. However, our main programming takes place throughout the school year. We take three trips per week to two community centers in Brightmoor to ensure that our students have a year-round music education.
4. Can you describe a day in the life of a camper briefly? Where is camp held? How many campers are there?
Approximately 80 campers (slightly varying each week) arrive by 8am for breakfast at our host community center, Mission: City (a converted charter school). After breakfast,
our campers participated in activities run various organizations associated with Mission: City until 12pm. Some of the activities in the morning include learning a play, Bible Study, and Olympic themed physical activities. From 12pm to 12:30pm campers are served lunch.
The music portion of their day begins at 12:30pm and ends at 4pm. I have attached a sample schedule from a typical week. Briefly, in a typical day, students would engage with small group music lessons, a movement class to develop beat competency, a notation class to learn music notation, and choir.
4. Who is eligible to be a camper?
Any child ages 4-18 from Detroit is an eligible camper. Most of our campers are ages 4-13 who come from both public and charter schools. We flyer in the schools and post yard signs around the community. However, most of our children are from the neighborhood nearest to the community center, so our program is mostly spread by word-of-mouth.
5. What type of equipment do you use and need? Do you have business partners who provide support?
We have a partnership with SHAR Music and MusicGoRound. We use any and all instruments. The most popular instruments are piano, violin, and guitar. We are currently seeking child-size guitars, electric keyboards, fractional sized violins, flutes, saxophones, and any percussion equipment. Additionally, our needs beyond instruments include music stands and art supplies for our new, and quickly growing creative writing and art program.
6. What other types of financial support do you get?
We have garnered support from various foundations, the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater, and Dance, and the Central Student Government at the University, among other general fundraising efforts. A full list of supporters can be found under the “sponsors” tab on our website at http://www.sevenmilemusic.org.
7. What feedback from campers and their families have you received? What are your goals/mission in providing this experience for Detroit children?
The mission of our organization is to provide youth in Detroit lasting opportunities to learn and enjoy music and the arts. To fulfill our mission, we have three objectives we aim to achieve: 1) empower youth to master challenging tasks, 2) foster lifelong enjoyment of playing music, and 3) nurture students into proficient musicians.
We have received an immeasurable amount of community support from community leaders, parents, and children alike. As one parent said after the camp:
“You have children who are violinists and they don’t even know it. You have children who could be beautiful pianists and they don’t even know it. There is a need for the arts . . . there is a need for mentoring the children at every level…this camp has already impacted our community greatly.”
Our program is not only recognized in Detroit for its mentorship and efforts to provide a music education, but the high-quality of music education it provides. Most notably, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) reached out to our program to come and audition our string students for their Youth Ensembles. After only 6 weeks of training on their instrument, eight campers earned spots in the DSO’s entry level Youth Ensemble and one camper even worked her way toward a spot in the intermediate Youth Ensemble. This is both a testament to our hard-working teachers, but more importantly our passionate and driven students. To see some of the impact our program has had on our children, please see the attached a document which includes some of our children’s quotes and pictures.