Summer Camps: Unleashing Creativity & Connection

As the school year winds down, Kansas City’s vibrant arts organizations are preparing to welcome kids to an array of enriching summer camp experiences from music and dance to painting, ceramics and more.

These programs provide a unique avenue for children to explore their creativity without the academic pressures of the school year, fostering both skill expansion and the discovery of new talents. Summer camps can also be a great way for kids to make new friends with similar interests.

For some students, these experiences are life changing.

Sharon Toulouse, assistant director of Bands and director of Midwestern Music Camp at the University of Kansas, has seen this first-hand with Midwestern Music Camp.

“I myself attended the camp the summer before I came to KU as a freshman. The counselors became my friends the very next fall! … I know of a couple current KU students who attended the camp and it inspired them to become music educators as well as attend KU.”

If fun, friends and fine-tuning art skills are not enough evidence in favor of summer camps in general, add to the list that many camp participants report an increase in self-confidence as they practice their skills under the guidance of experienced professionals.

In summary, summer camps are a chance you don’t want to miss to unlock creativity and create lasting memories.

Spotlight on a Student Artist

A Musical Journey from Band Camp to Educator

As 22-year-old Bryan Johnson prepares to graduate with a Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Kansas later this spring, he synthesizes his relationship with music to those three words.

Growing up, Johnson stayed busy . . . trying sports, Scouts and so on. But nothing really stuck until he discovered music.

“Music felt like the perfect place where I could contribute at a high level and where there were people like me that I could really connect with,” he explained. “I was always a happy kid, but I never really felt like I had
a purpose or a reason until I found music.”

KU’s Midwestern Music Camp has played an important role in that journey of discovery. He first attended when he was in seventh grade at the prompting of his band director at Frontier Trail Middle School in Olathe, Kansas.

“It was really kind of the thing that ignited my passion for music, because there’s so much good that can happen in a public school platform, but it’s just a different experience when you’re around students who have a similar level of dedication and excitement for music.”

Over the years, he attended the camp multiple times in the concert band track, transitioning from a camper to eventually becoming a counselor, which he notes has brought him a lot of joy.

That move from camper to counselor reflects not just a transition in roles, but a deepening of his commitment to fostering musical excellence in others.

While attending college, he’s taught at summer camps in the region, offered private lessons and has served as a student teacher in several schools around the Metro.

This past year at KU, Johnson has also transitioned from primarily playing the sousaphone in the marching band to being one of three drum majors that lead the 370 musicians in the Marching Jayhawks. This role has allowed him to interact with diverse perspectives within the band and take on organizational responsibilities.

“It’s been a really, really cool experience.”

Looking ahead, Johnson aspires to teach instrumental music at the middle school or high school level in Kansas City or Texas, where he has family and mentor connections.

Johnson’s journey so far, marked by summer camp memories and musical milestones, is a testament to the profound impact of music education. As he prepares to shape the next generation of musicians, he carries with him the lessons learned under the summer sun and the melodies of the Midwestern Music Camp.

Alexia Lang

Alexia Lang is a multimedia journalist who has worked in newspapers, magazines, radio and blogs. She holds a journalism degree from UMKC and her Master’s work is in Leadership.

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