What to Bring to Orchestra Camp

So, you’re off to orchestra camp. Lucky you!

Now, you’ve probably already packed your instrument, but what else do you need to bring?

Let’s take a look!

For Practice

  • Ring-binder
  • Pen and pencil
  • Staff paper
  • Eraser
  • Sheet protectors
  • Bow rosin
  • Spare strings
  • Instrument stand
  • Chin/shoulder rests
  • Instrument case
  • Cleaning cloths and solutions
  • Toolkit for repairs or adjustments
  • Music stand

The first half of this list contains all the things you’re going to need to manage your music. The ring binder lets you keep all your sheet music together, while the sheet protectors help prevent rips or tears to your music.

We always recommend you bring an eraser and pencil so that you can make changes or annotations to your music.

The second half of the list focuses on the accessories you need for your string instrument. 

When attending an orchestra camp or chamber camp, you need to bring everything you might need to play, repair, and clean your instrument. 

Always make sure to bring spare strings and tools for replacing strings. You might also want to consider bringing a spare bow just in case. 

If you use chin or shoulder rests while playing, pack them along with your instrument. The same goes for any instrument stands you use. 

You may need to bring your own music stand to orchestra camp. Check with the organizers beforehand to be sure. If you’re going to be playing outdoors, you’ll want to bring a clip to keep your music on your stand in breezy conditions. 

If you play with a bow, you need to bring along bow rosin. You’re likely going to play for most of the day, so you’re going to go through rosin faster than normal. 

Finally, make sure that you pack cleaning supplies. You need to wipe down your strings and instrument at the end of each practice. This keeps your instrument in tip-top shape ready for the following day.

For Recreation Time

  • Sandals
  • Casual clothes
  • Books/handheld game console/ portable video player/ entertainment system
  • Chargers
  • Medications
  • Snacks
  • Toiletries
  • Towel
  • Pajamas

You will need to check with your camp to see if they have any rules about what can or can’t be brought to camp.

The important things to remember are your clothes, medications, and toiletries.

When you’re packing clothes for orchestra camp, check whether you need to have an outfit especially for performing. They may ask you to bring formal wear or blacks for shows or performances.

How to Prepare for Orchestra Camp

Orchestra camp is lots of fun. You get to hang out with great people and play music for the duration. There’s nothing better!

However, it is an intense experience. You’ll be playing and practicing for the majority of the day. This can take a toll on your body, particularly your fingers, hands, and arms.

Orchestra camp can also be mentally taxing. You’re going to need to focus and concentrate for hours at a time. If you’re not confident with your music or your instrument, that is going to add extra stress. 

Don’t panic though. In the lead-up to orchestra camp, there are a few things you can do to prepare your body and mind.

  1.     Pack ahead of time – we’ve provided you with a list, now it’s up to you! Don’t leave it till the morning or you’ll end up forgetting things! You don’t want to end up with broken strings on day 2 and no spares!
  2.     Eat well – before you head off to camp you need to make sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs. Eat a healthy and balanced diet. This will help your brain stay focused and give you the energy you need to keep up.

    You’re going to want to maintain this healthy, nutritional diet throughout camp. In particular, you’re going to want to make sure you’re replacing calories lost during the activities of the day.
  3.     Practice your instrument – The better you are at your instrument the easier you’ll find camp.

    Don’t forget you’ll need to concentrate on your music and your playing. This can be tricky if you’re struggling with your instrument.

    When you sign up for orchestra camp, create a practice schedule that gets longer every week. This way you’ll be more confident with your instrument and prepared for extended practices.
  4.   Work on your sight-reading – At camp, you’ll be playing music you haven’t come across before. You’ll need to be able to sight-read to keep up.

    The best way to practice your sight-reading is to just do it. Pick some new music and give it a go.
  5. Practice with a metronome – At orchestra camp, you’ll be playing with other people. If you’re not used to playing with others then you’ll need to practice. 

Playing with a metronome is an excellent way to develop your sense of beat and pulse. In a group situation, being able to feel and follow the pulse is critical. The pulse is what keeps you all together and in time. 

What Will I Do at Orchestra Camp? 

The schedule of activities will change from camp to camp. The only thing you can really be sure of is that you’ll be doing a lot of playing! 

Before you sign up for a camp, you should be able to check the schedule or see an outline of the activities. Make sure you look at this before booking. You need to make sure that you’re going to benefit from the camp. 

For instance, if you’re hoping to perform at the end of camp, check that there is a performance scheduled. 

Let’s take a quick look at some typical camp activities. Again, not every camp will do every activity so do check the schedule beforehand. 

  • Specialist Technique Classes – You may be able to learn new skills and techniques in taught classes. These are sometimes one-on-one but more often they are taught to small groups.

    The techniques and skills taught will depend on the focus of the camp and the expertise of the tutors.
  • Ensemble practice – You may be put into smaller groups to learn specific pieces of music. During these smaller practice sessions, you will learn and practice pieces for a few hours at a time.
  • Whole orchestra rehearsal –  In these rehearsals, you’ll be playing alongside all camp attendees.

    These rehearsals last for a few hours at a time and may form the bulk of your camp activities.

    They can be quite intense and require you to be professional and focused. However, the outcome of these orchestra practices is wonderful! You get to play pieces with a full orchestra and they sound incredible.
  • Jam Sessions – Jam sessions are more free form. They tend to be spaces where you can bring your instrument along and just have fun jamming with other musicians.

    Jam sessions are often optional evening activities. Do try to attend at least one to see what they’re like. Not everyone enjoys jamming but it’s a great experience.
  • Concerts – not every orchestra camp will put on concerts or shows. If your camp does put on concerts, they will likely be performed in front of family and friends or local community members.

    Concerts are great ways to build your confidence especially if you don’t perform very often. Working towards a concert at the end of the camp can also help you focus during practices and rehearsals. 

Choosing an Orchestra Camp

There are a couple of things to consider when choosing a camp to attend. You need to think about finances, skill level, distance, and the type of camp you want to attend. 

Let’s take a look at these considerations so that you can choose the right camp for you. 

  • Type of Camp There are two layers to this. First, you need to decide whether you want to go to a day camp or a residential camp.

    Day camps tend to be cheaper and you can relax in the comfort of your own home at the end of a long day.

    Residential camps are usually more expensive but you get the full camp experience of bunkhouses and sleepovers.

    The other thing to consider when thinking about the type of camp is the music genre. Often camps specialize in a specific kind of music. It could be folk, blues, classical, modern, or any other genre.
  • Cost – Camps are very rarely free. You’ll usually be asked to cover the cost of your accommodation, food, and tutelage.

    On average, you can expect to pay a few hundred dollars for a week-long residential camp.

    If you’re struggling to afford camp, look out for scholarships and bursaries. These may be offered by the camp or other charitable organizations. They are usually offered to lower-income families or on a talent basis.

    When working out the cost of camp, you need to factor transport, equipment, spending money, and extras into your budget.
  • Skill Level – Some camps have guidelines and entry requirements. You may need to be at a particular grade level or age.

    These rules aren’t there to discriminate, they are to make sure that you attend a camp suitable for your needs and ability. Many camp providers offer concurrent camps for different age groups or skill levels.
  • Distance – If you plan on being a day camper, you need to find a camp close by. You don’t want to spend hours traveling back and forth each day.

    Residential campers have a bit more freedom when it comes to choosing a camp. You could go to a camp a few hours away because you’ll be staying for the duration.

    Make sure to factor in the cost of transport when choosing a camp. This is especially important if you’re going to an international camp and need to fly out.  

Final Thoughts

Orchestra camp is a wonderful experience. It will help you improve your playing, your social skills, and your confidence. 

Camp allows you to benefit from the experiences and expertise of lots of different musicians. Often you will receive tuition from professional performing musicians. They can not only help your playing but they can help you understand what a career in the music industry looks like. 

Our advice is if you have the chance to go to camp, take it! 

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