Pipestone Music Summer Camp with students and teachers – Methow Valley News

Young string players learn technique and teamwork

During the Pipestone Summer Music Camp, you only need to take a few steps to the Methow Valley Community Center to hear the ringing voices of the orchestra. Behind the desk and through the open classroom door, the thunderous sounds of the cello section echo, calling for violins and violas.

Pipestone School of Music’s annual summer camp has been running for 15 years. This is a week-long program that offers youth the opportunity to play in a string orchestra and small string ensembles. This year’s camp, which took place on July 25-29, gathered 16 young musicians and ended with a concert.

Pam Hunt, camp director and co-founder of the Pipestone School of Music, said each year she reaches out to local professional musicians to become coaches at the camp. Joining her this year are Bruce Walker, cellist and adjunct professor of music at Columbia Basin College, and Rachel Nesvig, Seattle-based freelance violinist and Norwegian Hardanger violin teacher.

Walker, who also coached the camp in 2018, said the decision to return was an easy one. Part of what makes this experience so special for him is how tight-knit the Pipestone community is.

“That in itself is such a unique and organic experience because everyone supports each other’s learning and everyone learns from each other, so everyone’s success is my success,” Walker said. “That’s what I think is really, really variable in this particular camp.”

Familiar rhythms

According to Hunt, every day at the camp follows a similar rhythm. In the first half of the day, the younger students practice music and rehearse in a large string orchestra, working on songs such as “Curse of the Rosin Eating Zombies from Outer Space” by Richard Mayer and “Apache Peak” by Susan Day. Hunt said she chooses pieces that help students develop different techniques, such as playing legato or staccato with bows.

For the last hour of rehearsal, more experienced students join the orchestra. These campers then break into small groups for a three-hour chamber music rehearsal.

“Even though it seems daunting, like three hours, you can really dive in and get to know the students well and make connections, and that’s what music is all about,” Nesvig said.

This year, two chamber ensembles were presented. A choir of three cellists performed works by Handel, Purcell, Chilesotti and Alberti, and a group of four spent a week studying the Stamitz Quartet. Elsa Guetzler, a cellist in the cello choir, said she enjoyed her small group because of the variety of different pieces she played.

“I like playing all these different types [of music]”, Hutzler said. “It’s like this piece is really upbeat and has a strong rhythm that you kind of get into, and there are others that are real old classics.”

Creating opportunities

Hunt moved to the Methow Valley 29 years ago with her husband, Terry Hunt, a classically trained guitarist. There, they joined the board of Cascadia Music, Twisp’s community music organization. Despite Cascadia’s thriving music festival and concert series, Hunt said she sees far fewer opportunities for music education in the Methow Valley. At the time, she recalls, there was only one private music teacher in the area.

In 1997, when music was discontinued in schools, Pam and Terry Hunt knew they needed to make a difference.

“We just said we need a music school,” Hunt said.

Together, the pair founded the Pipestone School of Music, an educational branch of Cascadia Music. Today, Cascadia Music remains the primary organization and financial sponsor of the Pipestone Summer Music Camps.

Hunt said Pipestone is committed to making music education affordable by offering scholarships. The school also has about 45 instruments that can be loaned to students.

“I am always very grateful that people like it [Bruce and Rachel] can come and talk to my students because not all of them go out to other camps,” Hunt said. “Just because you grew up in a small community doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have all these opportunities.”

For Gantt, music is everything—it encompasses language, history, mathematics, and physicality. It’s something you never regret learning and always regret dropping out of, Nesvig said.

As the young musicians move on from Pipestone’s summer music camp and continue their education over the summer, Walker hopes they will bring with them a new appreciation for their craft. He said he continues to advocate for music and music education because of the connections and opportunities it provides.

“I think that being interested in art and being involved in music really helps us develop an inner sense of what it means to be human — to see beauty not only from a physical aspect, but also from an auditory perspective,” Walker said. “It’s something that can transcend anything we do, and I know that when we’re gone, our only hope is that our legacy can be a catalyst for other things to happen. We are literally sowing seeds with every student we teach.”

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