YPC’s First Ever Day Camp

For two weeks from August 5 to 16, the studios and hallways of the Young People’s Chorus of New York City’s home overflowed with excited, happy, and motivated boys and girls ages 8 to 14 from YPC’s after-school and community programs, all of them thrilled to be participating in YPC’s first Summer Day Camp.

Led by YPC Assistant Conductor Sonny Willis and assisted by YPC Conductors Gia Gan and Emma Hathaway, along with a dedicated group of YPC alumni and senior chorister counselors eager to share their skills and talents—the summer camp provided the young singers with an intensive, and fun-filled, introduction to the professional world of the performing arts.

Together with team-building activities in music, dance, crafts, and games, they had the amazing opportunity to take part in master classes by composer Jim Papoulis and Broadway and off-Broadway artists, not to mention the chance to experience the final product of all the skills professional artists need to perfect by attending two Broadway shows: “Wicked” and “Aladdin.”

At 9 a.m. each morning, the singers—giddy with anticipation— began the day with vocal exercises to warm up their voices, before the conductors began teaching them new songs and performance skills in preparation for each end-of-the-week concert for families and friends.  Of all the YPC summer camp activities, nine-year-old Yana said that these early morning sessions were what she liked best. “Everyone together as a group, singing as a family, it was such a nice way to start the day.”

The campers also spent time every day with YPC’s longtime choreographer Jacquie Bird, who taught them the steps, the names of the steps, and with help from the counselors, demonstrated to the children how these moves would enhance their performances. Some of the children were nervous they wouldn’t be able to keep up, but soon, everything clicked. One chorister spoke for many of them when she said, “At first I was afraid, but I just needed to work a little harder.”

In the master classes, Alex Haynes from Off-Broadway’s “Puffs” taught the children how to improvise; Lindsay Northen from Broadway’s “Wicked” taught the campers a song and dance from the show; and Mike Cannon, the dance captain for Broadway’s “Aladdin” taught the children to sing and dance the opening song of the show, Arabian Nights. Each week Jim Papoulis brainstormed one-on-one with the children on how to compose a song—first, come up with a theme, then write the lyrics and melody to go with the theme.

For 11-year-old Miles, being able to actually help write a new song with composer Jim Papoulis and his fellow choristers, was his most exciting moment of all.

It was incredible to watch how quickly the kids came out of their shells, adjusted, and started to feel comfortable. Through activities they all loved, like creating team chants and the music and dance classes, they got to bond and to know each other. When the counselors talked to the kids during lunch, it was always the quiet and shy ones who really had the most to say. I learned so much about them, and we ended up having a lot of things in common. After talking with them, they became more social and participated more, so I felt that we gave them the confidence to have a good time. That was a great thing to watch happen.

– Anastasia, Day Camp Counselor

One of the brightest parts of each day was lunchtime in Central Park, just down the block from YPC, where everyone had time to get to know each other better. According to 10-year-old Astrid, sitting around and hearing the counselors tell them about YPC traditions and stories about their performances was her favorite part of summer camp.

At each week’s closing performance, with YPC’s Eichholz Foundation Rehearsal Studio bursting with parents and friends, the campers surprised and astonished their audiences with a spectacular program of music and dance, each of which included the world premiere of the new songs they had composed with Jim Papoulis: Love Will Heal the Worldand Live My Life With Beauty. It was difficult to determine who was prouder of what the choristers had accomplished at summer camp: the parents or the choristers themselves.

One of my favorite memories from camp is seeing every chorister’s hand raised with enthusiasm when I asked if anyone made a new friend during the week. I was also proud to see how much the choristers looked up to their counselors. The YPC spirit was modeled and felt throughout the week.

–  Sonny Willis

YPC Day Camp choristers in their final showcase performance

By spending two full weeks with many of the same choristers, the staff had the opportunity to get to know each of them much more deeply and identify ways of playing to their strengths. One stand-out moment came from observing that one particular chorister focused best when given an instrument to play. In the final concert, he played djembe for Jim Papoulis’s Oye– and did such a fantastic job that Jim asked if he was a “professional” – to which the chorister smiled with pride.

–  Emma Hathaway

For more exclusive content of our first ever day camp click here 

Photos by YPC Staff members