Playtime: Options for kid-friendly music school, arts camp this summer

Summer Music School participants perform in the Edmonds 4th of July parade. (Photo by Phil Onishi)

At my oldest son’s Quad Concert for band, the high school director announced that the Edmonds School District’s Summer Music School was now open for registration. Admittedly, I had already called them to see when I might be able to register, so I was happy to hear the official word that it was time to sign up.

Summer Music School, held at Mountlake Terrace High School from July 1-19 this year, is probably the camp that I recommend the most to my friends. Students spend each day, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., partly with the entire group working on the 4th of July Parade or the choir performance the whole group does at the end-of-camp concert, and the rest of the time in their three electives. These electives are a great chance to expand your horizons with something that isn’t offered at your school like the Korean drumming or steel drum electives, or by trying a new instrument in band or orchestra lab. Campers can do musical theatre or take a stab at jazz band, which is something that often requires an audition in the school year. Summer Music School is not just for Edmonds School District students but also students outside our school district. You just have to be entering 6th through 12th grade with one year of instrumental experience in band or orchestra.

After we registered for Summer Music School, I got an email from Laurie Piper in the Edmonds School District music office that contained, among other things, the fact that my son was the first student to be registered. This is what the kids would say is very “on brand” for me, but being as I write about things to do with kids, I hear a lot about friends’ desired camps being full, so I’m doubly jumpy about our summer staples. Plus, this camp has been a great experience not only for us, but for a lot of other kids we know — and my son has made new friends and tried things he would had not had exposure to otherwise.

As the students get older, they can apply to help out at Summer Music School. Some of the staff are college students who went through summer music themselves, so there are opportunities to play and learn for a long time. Tuition is $350 per student and includes all courses, music, transportation to a field trip and a camp t-shirt.

Per the Summer Music School website, limited financial assistance is available through most schools. They suggest you check with your music teacher or school parent group, with the deadline for financial aid on June 15. For more information, you can visit the Edmonds School District Summer Music School site HERE.

Steel Magic Northwest Pan Wizards

The steel drum elective is taught by Gary Gibson, executive/artistic director of Steel Magic Northwest. Summer Music School isn’t the only chance to try out the steel drums with Gibson this summer, as Steel Magic Northwest offers a Steel Band Summer Intensive camp the week of Aug. 6 for both youth (5th through 12th graders) and adults, and no prior musical experience is necessary.

Gibson notes that learning music on the steel pan has a gentler initial learning curve than other traditional instruments, so groups can sound great relatively quickly. I will say, when we went to one of their open houses, Gibson was able to get the group — with a mix of experience levels — going pretty quickly. Camp meets at Steel Magic Northwest’s space at Edmonds Adventist Church, 8625 196th St. S.W., the youth from 1:30 to 4 p.m. and the adults from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Steel Magic Northwest runs their program during the school year, with a winter and spring session with varying youth levels and an adult group.

I reached out to Gibson regarding Summer Music School and this yearly camp, and he let me know that the camp “doubles as an audition for the Pan Dragons Intermediate steel band and [their] top Pan Wizards Steel Orchestra youth ensemble.” If you’re curious about the group or want to see if it’s something that might be a fit for you, you can attend their “Blast Into Spring” concert on Wednesday, March 20 at 7 p.m., also held at the Edmonds Adventist Church. For more information on Steel Magic Northwest, you can visit and for camp registration you can visit

Summer arts enrichment at the Edmonds Center for the Arts includes an acting camp.

The Edmonds Center for the Arts is offering its 7th year of Summer Arts Enrichment Camps, in partnership with local arts organizations and artists. They have three different camp options this year and while, of course, the camp content is key, being in the ECA is an incredible bonus. A couple of years ago, my kids took a drama camp there and they got to play in the gym and hang out in one of the classrooms, and I looked forward to poking around on performance day. On the week of July 8, campers ages 11 to 15 can take “Twelfth Night: Acting, Improv & Combat Camp with Seattle Shakespeare Company.” Each day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., students will rehearse scenes, practice acting techniques, play improv games, and create comedic stage combat routines and on Friday, there is a showcase for family and friends.

The week of July 15, campers ages 8 to 12 can join Caribbean Steel Drum Camp with The Seattle Steel Pan Project. Also running from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., this camp allows campers with no previous music experience to be able to play as an ensemble by the end of the camp. Campers will learn some of the fundamental rhythms of soca and calypso, as well as the rich history and culture of steel pan music and dance.

The following week, July 22-26, campers 6th grade and up can also play the steel drums at Intergenerational Steel Drum Camp with The Seattle Steel Pan Project and Silver Kite Community Arts. This camp is 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the kids and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for those 55 plus. The camp is set up so the younger campers play together in a morning session and then the youth later take the lead to help teach their adult band-mates when the whole group meets. The objective is to provide leadership and mentor opportunities to both youth and adults, and the band members wrap up the day by eating lunch together. To ensure access to the programs, ECA offers need-based scholarships through the Nancy Bittner Scholarship Fund. For more information about both the camps and scholarships, you can contact Director of Programming Gillian Jones directly at or 425-275-9483.

Jen Marx

– By Jennifer Marx

Jen Marx, an Edmonds mom of two boys, is always looking for a fun place to take the kids that makes them tired enough to go to bed on time.

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