San Francisco Early Music Camp

Berkeley, San Francisco
50 participants
discoveryworkshop [at]

We still have spots available!  Music Discovery Workshop & Youth Collegium is an exciting multi-arts program for youth. Music, culture, and social history come to life as participants study music from the 15th - 18th centuries in singing, instrument, ensemble, and musicianship classes introducing children to a new period instrument, viola da gamba.  Drama, crafts, and dance round out the curriculum.  The week ends with a concert and theater performance followed by a potluck feast.  Beginning to advanced students are welcome.  All classes are taught by our faculty in semi-private instructions.  This summer, take yourself back to 1763 Salzburg and join 7 year old Wolfie and 11 year old Nunnerl Mozart on Wunderkind's Grand Tour!

Parent Reviews

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The San Francisco Early Music Society has an awesome one-week summer workshop for kids that is held at School of the Madeleine in Berkeley:

It’s all music-related fun, and I encourage you to check it out.

We found this gem of a camp last summer. San Francisco Early Music

The emphasis is on early music (voice, strings, recorder, or harpsichord) but the kids work on a play all week, too.  They had costumes, lines to memorize, and daily rehearsals — the Friday evening performance was very well done and greatly exceeded our expectations.  My 9-year old is excited to do it again this year.

My children, now 11 and 14, have attended this camp for a number of years now, on and off -- we even attended when we still lived in Palo Alto. The camp really is unique, and very wonderful. First, on the musical aspect: Most children who have only just started playing a musical instrument will have few opportunities for ensemble playing. This is one of those rare opportunities, and while the music in the camp's beginners' ensembles is not technically demanding, it is musically rich and gratifying (renaissance and baroque music has a lot to offer from that perspective). Moreover, ensemble play during the camp trains the social skills and brings the social joys that come with intensive music making at any level: watching out for each other and taking turns, coordinating expression, and miraculously creating a harmonious tapestry of sound together that none of the players could have created alone. At SFEMS all the ensemble leaders are highly accomplished professionals (both as musicians and as teachers) who love working with children, and it shows both in the atmosphere of the ensemble sessions and in their results. Second, the theatrical aspect of the camp, which have always been hugely important to my own kids as well: every year, within just five short days, some highly imaginative play is worked up to delight families and friends on Friday evening -- usually a play about famous renaissance figures that involves period dances, period songs, self-made period costumes, etc. I've always marveled at the amount of dialogue and song texts the campers are able to memorize in that one week, even those who (like my boys) would never manage anything of the sort for school; it's a sure sign they are motivated and enjoying themselves tremendously.

After a few years, right on cue, just as I was beginning to think that despite all the fun and creativity maybe my kids (who are both taking instrument lessons regularly throughout the year) needed something a bit more demanding technically, the SFEMS Discovery camp added a second layer of programming for older/more advanced players and singers. They still got to dance, play-act, and make costumes as before (with some extra challenges thrown in!), but the bar for ensemble playing was raised for them: last year at the end of the week they performed a full-blown orchestral concerto. 

In short, whether you are just thinking of starting your child on classical music (instrument or singing) or are hoping to add a joyful and motivating highlight to regular private lessons during the school year, this is a camp you should seriously consider.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Jan 2009

Re: Music camp for 7-year-old
I highly recommend the Music Discovery Camp - we have done it 2 years in a row since my daughter was 7 and we will do it again. My child had 1 year of piano under her belt but you don't have to have any music experience. If your child doesn't play anything they suggest a set of music lessons prior to the camp. All of the themes are early music related - pirate and buccaneers theme, Robin Hood, this year is an English Country Faire. Part of the camp is lessons, ensemble playing, drama, and art of making props. It is our 2nd favorite summer camp, after girl scouts. Anon