Potomac Music Academy Works Harmoniously at Mason

Posted: July 28, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

Students and the community are singing praises about the Department of Music’s new Potomac Music Academy–a series of music programs offered this summer on the Fairfax Campus. Combining long-running programs such as the Orff Schulwerk Teacher Training program with new camps like the Chamber Music Connection, the department has formed a summer academy program that is drawing attention and respect throughout the nation.

This year, the Potomac Music Academy consists of five programs for music educators and high school- and college-level students. Many of the programs are intensive two-week sessions that include course work, practice, private lessons, and performance.

The Donald de Laski and Nancy de Laski Foundation was instrumental in launching the academy, contributing $100,000 in support of the summer music programs. Donald de Laski is a member of the George Mason University Foundation Board of Trustees and retired chair of Deltek Systems. Nancy de Laski is a member of the Center for the Arts Advisory Board at George Mason.

The Orff Schulwerk Teacher Training program, directed by Donna Fleetwood and Matt McCoy, is a certification program designed around an approach to music and dance education developed by Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman. In its 20th year at Mason, it is the longest-running music program. It is also the largest summer academy program with nearly 140 participants, and this year hosted its first international student. The program wrapped up July 25.

Brand-new to the music academy is the Chamber Music Connection, held in late June. The Connection offers students private lessons, chamber music coaching, recitals, master classes, string quartets, and a public performance each week. According to Music Chair James Gardner, the program is unique because it connects advanced high school string players with younger players for an innovative mentoring program. “[The de Laskis’] enthusiastic support of students and excellence is really making a difference,” Gadner says. “We are very grateful to them and to others from throughout the community who continue to support music at George Mason.”

Potomac Summer Music Adacemy
Students in the string camp program work together on their music.

Another first for the Potomac Music Academy was the Piano Pedagogy Seminar, held in early June for piano teachers and college students seeking specialized training in piano pedagogy. In addition, the Summer Symphonic Honor Band, which provides an opportunity for advanced high school musicians to perform in an advanced-level ensemble, will be held for the second time in early August. And a specially designed camp for musicians at all skill levels, the Summer Woodwind Camp, is now ongoing. Directed by professor Judith Lapple, it features small classes, private lessons, guest artists, field trips, and a grand finale concert.

Gardner said the participation and quality of the students in the programs this summer has been greater than expected. “I am particularly encouraged by the enthusiasm of the students,” he says. “Many have cut short their lunch time and other breaks in order to practice. The fact that we are helping students learn to love practicing and to do that essential work effectively is a great testimony to the skill and dedication of the faculty.”

“The Potomac Music Academy is strategically very important to the College of Visual and Performing Arts [CVPA]. We see the academy as a vehicle for attracting ever growing talented artists of all ages to the campus,” says CVPA Dean William Reeder. “Some of these students we anticipate will stay with the college for their academic training, others will return to their respective communities, spreading the word about the gifted faculty from Mason and the academy. Going forward, we anticipate truly significant growth in numbers of students and in the stature of the camp itself. None of this would be possible without the generosity of Don and Nancy de Laski.”

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