Be Our Guest! Summer Camps

Be Our Guest, Camps and Workshops


This month’s guest is a piano teacher from Tucson AZ, Lynnette Barney. I’m happy to have her as a guest blogger this month. Summer is quickly approaching and she has some fun ideas to help spark some ideas for your studio.


I really enjoyed last month’s Be Our Guest article on building a studio community. I got some new ideas I can’t wait to incorporate in my studio. One of my goals is to build a community that expands beyond my private students. My summer camps are open to enrolled students, their friends, and other interested families. I scheduled my camps for two and a half hours a day, Monday through Thursday, for a total of 10 hours and included 8-10 campers.

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Students enrolled in these camps may have many piano lessons under their fingertips, may be beginners, or may have no music experience at all. It can be a challenge to come up with camp ideas that will challenge my enrolled students and yet be accessible for those with little or no music experience. Last summer I experimented with four different camps as well as a beginning piano camp for students new to my studio. The most popular camps were “Drums, Chants, and Beatboxing” and “Music and Electronics”. You can find pictures and a summary of each camp here:

My goal for the “Drums, Chants, and Beatboxing” camp was to help the campers experience rhythm and beat through a variety of activities and recognize unexpected places we find rhythm and beat in our lives. One of my students graciously lent our studio several bongos, conga drums, and large African drums which really added to the fun. Daily activities included:

  • A drum circle – I used ideas from Kalani’s The Amazing Jamnasium and Together in Rhythm (published by Alfred). Students loved being part of the circle and most loved the chance to jump up and be the drum circle leader.
  • A chant – We discovered how sailors worked to sea shanties, the history of African-American work songs, silly jump rope rhymes, and how military cadences motivate cadets in training.
  • Beatboxing – Kids love vocal percussion! Each day we watched a youtube video ( to learn a new sound – kick drum, hi hat, basic snare, toms, and crashes. Then we watched youtube videos that feature a capella groups using vocal percussion, such as BYU’s Vocal Point and the group Pentatonix.
  • Counting conundrums – we used syllabic counting to echo, perform and read complex sixteenth and triplet rhythms, explored hemiola, played around with 2 against 3 and 4 against 3 rhythms, and conquered other tricky rhythms. I was surprised at how quickly the inexperienced students picked up these complex concepts when extensively exposed to them over four days.
  • Rhythm notation – each day we picked a topic, created a phrase, drummed our phrase, and then figured out how to notate it. More experienced students were happy to help their peers. Favorite topics were animal rhythms (snakes were well represented in one group), ice-cream flavors, and everybody’s names.
  • A drumming video – the absolute favorite activity was one I hadn’t planned, it just happened. Each day at the end of class, the students broke into groups of two or three and planned a rhythm video. They incorporated drums, singing, dance, acting, and huge amounts of creativity to create music videos.   Someday I’ll learn video editing and create a video montage!

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In addition we made our own drums using a five gallon bucket and packing tape, created a water xylophone, learned the parts of a drum set and explored drums from around the world, explored Morse Code, learned about the characteristics and categories of percussion instruments, and more!

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My “Music and Electronics” camp included the history of electronic music and instruments, the science of sound and how to create synthesized sounds, and the vocabulary related to digital instruments and keyboards. Students learned how to do multi-track sequencing on the studio digital keyboards (Yamaha DGX640 model) and composed and recorded at least one piece each day. The idea was to create music for a video game, but they ranged far beyond that!

Composing and performing their pieces was definitely the highlight of each camp day! I paired a more experienced student with a less experienced peer and was amazed at what each duo came up with. Each group’s creations were so different and reflected their personalities. Now that I have a Clavinova in my studio I can convert their MIDI performances into audio files so that they can share their masterpieces with others.

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I’m in the planning stages for this year’s summer camps and hope they are as successful with such a mixed crowd as last year! What are you doing in your studio this summer? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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Lynnette Barney owns Creative Keys, a music studio in Tucson, Arizona, offering music for families and individuals from babies through adults. She strives to be an enthusiastic and innovative piano teacher and is a registered Music Together® teacher.  Lynnette believes music study is most effective and enjoyable when it extends beyond the private lesson into the student’s family, peer group, and world. She has a particular love for collaborative music and provides many opportunities to learn and perform piano ensemble works and explore group improvisation.


Thank you for being our guest, Lynnette!  Don’t forget to visit Lynnette’s website and check out her studio blog. If you are interested in being a future guest on FPSResources, let me know by emailing me: [email protected]

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1 Comment

  1. Cara

    These ideas are really super–thank you!


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