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Students at Pacific’s summer music camps are able to hone musical skills under the instruction mentoring of faculty.

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Pacific News

A Pacific tradition: 70 years of summer camp

University’s summer programs set campers on path to college — or rock stardom
Jul 2, 2015

University of the Pacific this year continues its long tradition of offering schoolchildren a summer college experience, as more than 2,500 young people from around the world arrive on the Stockton campus for a chance to learn about outer space from a former astronaut, jam with Conservatory of Music faculty at a jazz club or get tips from top college coaches.

Tens of thousands of children have participated in Pacific summer programs for at least 69 years, notably Phil Lesh, who grew up to help found the Grateful Dead, and the late Cornelius Bumpus, who became a saxophonist for the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan.

"Pacific has one of the longest-running and most robust summer programs for youth anywhere," said Stockton City Councilman Moses Zapien, himself a Pacific alum. "We are very fortunate to have such a committed partner in providing these camps and academies."

Tomorrow Project academies, one component of Pacific's summer youth programs, each year welcome some 500 of the region's most academically vulnerable students to free summer sessions aimed at lifting college-going rates in Stockton and the Central Valley. One of the academies is a project of Pacific alum and former NASA astronaut José Hernández, the son of farmworkers and the first in his family to go to college.

Fee-based camps offer instruction in everything from water polo to music performance, and over the years have brought in such guest mentors as Arthur Fielder, who conducted the Boston Pops Orchestra for 50 years before his death, and Mike Klooster, the keyboardist for Smash Mouth.

Besides enriching children's summers, the camp program contributes to the community's economy. Hundreds of Pacific students, staff, faculty and area educators count on the program for summer jobs every year.

Music camps

Pacific's Conservatory of Music, the first in the West, has offered camps since 1946 and last year alone gave more than $30,300 in merit scholarships, discounts and other financial aid to area music students to attend the camps. Those camps cover everything from choir to jazz to orchestra, and the newest is the Music Business Camp for campers who want to learn more about the music industry. For musicians and non-musicians, the Music Business Camp includes collaboration with top industry professionals who teach and mentor campers in the finer points of music promotion and marketing, social media, recording production and live sound. They use state-of-the-art equipment, including the Owen Hall recording studio.

"Parents tell us how excited their child was after attending Pacific Music Camp," said Steve Perdicaris, director of the Conservatory's summer music programs. "They make lifelong friends and some aspire to major in music at the Conservatory of Music. Although not all campers will study music in college, many choose to attend University of the Pacific based on their camp experience."

Since 2002, the university's Brubeck Institute, dedicated to continuing the legacy of jazz great and Pacific alum Dave Brubeck, has offered a Summer Jazz Colony for high school jazz musicians from around the world. This year's "colonists" include musicians from the United Kingdom and Australia. The colonists get the opportunity to perform with faculty at Take 5 Jazz Club at the Brew, a popular jazz venue operated by Pacific in the back room of an off-campus restaurant and brew pub.

Tomorrow Project

Some 500 underserved middle- and high-school students, mostly from the Stockton area, attend Tomorrow Project academies each summer to sharpen their skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the so-called STEM fields.

One of the academies is a collaboration with Reaching for the Stars, a foundation established by José Hernández, a Pacific alumnus, former astronaut and regent. Hernandez often speaks directly with campers about his NASA experiences.

"All children, despite their challenges, should have the same education opportunities that I did," said Hernández, the son of migrant workers who encouraged him to succeed in education, which eventually led him to become a NASA astronaut. "I was inspired by Dr. Franklin Chang-Diaz, the first Hispanic-American astronaut, and now I want children to be inspired to learn more about science, technology, engineering and math so they too can pursue occupations in STEM. The Reach for the Stars summer academy is a good first step to reaching this goal."

Besides the PREP USA Reach for the Stars STEM academy and several other STEM-related programs is an academy that focuses on area migrant students who are at risk of falling behind academically. Those students in grades 7 through 10 learn strategies for high school completion and college success. They also develop citizenship and study skills through rigorous math instruction developed at UC Berkeley's public science education center, Lawrence Hall of Science.

This summer the Tomorrow Project also includes a STEM and outdoor education academy sponsored by the Butte County Office of Education for 100 students and 16 staff members. The new partnership, two years in the making, came after Butte County education administrators visited the Reach for the Starts STEM academy and were impressed with the program.

The Tomorrow Project academies are a centerpiece of Pacific's Beyond Our Gates initiative, which works with community partners to help children learn today so they can be engaged citizens tomorrow.

In addition to the José Hernández Reaching for the Stars Foundation, partners include United Way of San Joaquin County, Wells Fargo Bank, Bank of America, AT&T, Verizon, Community Foundation of San Joaquin, and PG&E, as well as the Stockton Unified School District, San Joaquin County Office of Education and others.

Sports camps

Athletes in every youth league in the region look to the next level in their sport to find players to emulate. Many times that means following Pacific Tigers.

They may dream of playing volleyball or basketball before screaming fans in the Alex G. Spanos Center. Or skimming a water polo ball into the net during a big game in Kjeldsen Pool. Or hitting a walk-off home run out of Klein Family Field.

Staffed by Pacific coaches and players, Pacific's summer sports program gives children of all ages and abilities the opportunity to improve their skills.

Volleyball may be the oldest of Pacific's summer sports programs, having served an estimated 12,000 young people over the past 30 years. The men's basketball staff have offered camps for at least 23 years, while softball and boys' and girls' soccer camps have been a summer tradition since 1994. One of the newest offerings, launched last year, is a camp run by the men's soccer team. This year at least 1,500 kids will participate in Pacific sports camps.

DeltaFusion Workshops

DeltaFusion, one of the newest camps, includes classes in mask-making, puppetry, movement and storytelling held in Pacific's Theatre Arts Building. The camp culminates in a festival and pageant in a Stockton park.

"I was trying to think of a way to celebrate Stockton's diversity," said Cathie McClellan, a Pacific theatre arts professor. "I wanted to find a form of artistic expression that all cultures have in common. That's when it came to me - puppetry."

The workshop and festival highlight Stockton's rich history, including the Delta's abundance and the region's struggle with the effects of the drought.

"It's about Stockton moving forward and what the city sends out into the world," McClellan said.

More online:

Conservatory of Music:

Brubeck Institute Summer Jazz Colony:

Tomorrow Project webpage 

Pacific Sports Camps webpage

DeltaFusion website

Media contact:
Keith Michaud | 209.946.3275 (office) | 209.470.3206 (cell) |

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