From January 7th - 11th 2013, 48 students from Keiskamma Music Academy enjoyed a unique and exciting camp experience at Hobbiton Outdoor Centre in Hogsback. Generous funding allowed us to take 48 music students from our core programme in Hamburg as well as from our new extension group in the nearby village of Bodium. For many of these young people it was their first experience of staying away from home and family, so the schedule and the activities were unlike anything they had ever tried before.
Many outdoor challenges really stretched the youngsters both physically & mentally. Students progressed through low & mid-ropes activities to a high-ropes course on the final day. It was surprising on the fourth day how many of the group were happy to attempt a nerve-wracking climb, 'trapeze' jump, or climbing wall, such was their growing confidence in themselves.
Many of the activities took place in small groups or teams that encouraged a mix of ages and abilities. Students were not always able to remain in groups with their friends, but had to rotate through a variety of groups and learn to communicate and negotiate with everyone. Each team had to work together to support weaker members. As teachers, we were impressed by the good-natured team spirit and communication. Older students were very helpful and encouraging with their younger team members. During the week the young people faced many personal challenges. The weather was wet and conditions were quite tough at times for outdoor activities. However, with a helping hand and a little encouragement, they all participated fully.
We also scheduled sessions during the day for focused instrumental ensemble music. The group worked on fine-tuning some of their existing repertoire as well as learning new ensemble music. In the spirit of teamwork that had been developing through the camp, older students took initiative in volunteering to take groups of younger students aside for extra help learning their music. The students staged an informal concert on the final day for staff and volunteers. The emphasis during the week was not on performance, however, but on sharing music-making as a group. Some students appreciated the chance to practice new pieces with their friends in their (very little!) spare time.
During a night hike on our final evening, we reached an open space in the woodland where we stood in silence in a circle in the darkness, sensing each others' presence, listening only to the night sounds. This was a moving experience for some of them. Encouraged to voice their thoughts, one boy spoke up:
'I have never been in a group like this before... I have never been out in the forest at night. I thought it would be dangerous but I know now that I can face my fears...'
I felt that he expressed the feelings of many around the circle that damp evening.
These few days at camp will remain vibrant in our students' memories for years to come and perhaps provide a key to open doors to future opportunities that they may not have dreamt of otherwise.