Great Summer Music Programs for High School Students

Summer is an excellent time to develop your musical skills. An intensive summer music program can improve your ability, impress college admissions officers, and, in some cases, provide concert touring experience. If you are interested in developing your musical skills over the summer, explore nine noteworthy summer music programs for high school students.

Penn State Summer Music Camp (Honors Music Institute)

Obelisk at Penn State University
Obelisk at Penn State University. Matthew Lukens / Flickr

Penn State offers a week-long residential camp for high school students interested in band, orchestra, choir, jazz, or piano. Students participate in master classes and daily sectional and ensemble rehearsals as well as academic classes in subjects such as cartoon music, jazz improvisation, music history mysteries, musical ​theater, music theory, and the psychology of music. The program culminates in a final performance at several public concert venues on the Penn State campus.

Applicants are required to submit an audition video on YouTube in addition to an online application form. Once students are accepted, they will receive information regarding partial scholarships to the program. The camp is located at Penn State’s University Park campus in State College. 

NYU Steinhardt Summer Programs

Wikimedia Commons

New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development offers intensive summer programs for high school students in brass, woodwinds, strings, percussion, voice, and piano.

The programs vary in length and structure. For example, the vocal performance program is a three-week workshop for high school students over the age of 16 in the preparation, interpretation, presentation, and techniques of classical singing. It includes group and individual instruction on diction and repertoire, vocal technique, and stage movement. The two-week piano intensive prepares students to enter conservatory study and careers in performance through one-on-one instruction with artist faculty and master classes with guest artists.

The programs also offer residential options, special topic workshops, and cultural outings in the city. Applications and audition videos are submitted online. Upon completion of the online application, students will receive information regarding scholarships and financial aid.

Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp

Twin Lake, Michigan
Twin Lake, Michigan. Wendy Piersall / Flickr

The Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Twin Lake, Michigan, offers several sessions to high school students for advancing their music education. Blue Lake campers select one major out of several options, including band, choir, harp, jazz, music composition, orchestra, and piano. Students are grouped according to their proficiency and spend several hours a day in sectional and ensemble rehearsals and technique classes.

Campers can also select a minor from a variety of traditional camp activities, such as crafts, hiking, and team sports, as well as several fine arts fields such as music theory, acting, and intro to opera.

Scholarship opportunities are available for advanced students in strings, winds, percussion, and chamber orchestra. Students must audition separately for these special scholarships. A limited number of financial-need scholarships are also available. Each camp session runs for 12 days. 

Illinois Chamber Music Festival and Camp at Illinois Wesleyan University

Illinois Wesleyan University
Illinois Wesleyan University. soundfromwayout / Flickr

The chamber music summer program and festival at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington provides high school students with three weeks of intensive training in strings, piano, winds, and harp. Students participate in daily coaching, rehearsals, master classes, and student and faculty performances, as well as outside electives and activities such as conversational language, musical theater, dance, and tennis.

Students applying to the program for the first time must audition in person or submit a five-minute recording of a solo of their choice. A residential option is offered for out-of-town students.

Interlochen Summer Music Programs

Interlochen Kresge Auditorium
Interlochen Kresge Auditorium. grggrssmr / Flickr

The Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan offers a variety of residential summer camps for high school musicians, including multiweek programs and one-week instrumental institutes.

Students may choose to attend programs ranging from two to six weeks in orchestral and wind ensembles, voice, piano, organ, harp, classical guitar, composition, jazz, audio recording, singer-songwriter, and rock, as well as more focused one-week institutes for bassoon, advanced bassoon, cello, flute, horn, oboe, percussion, trombone, and trumpet.

All of Interlochen’s summer music programs include several hours of daily rehearsals, lessons, private coaching, lecture classes, and performance opportunities. A variety of scholarships and financial aid packages are available to qualified students, including full merit scholarships through the Interlochen Orchestral Scholars and Fennell programs.

Boston University Tanglewood Institute

Boston University Castle
Boston University Castle. Photo Credit: Katie Doyle

Internationally recognized as one of the top summer training programs for aspiring young musicians, the Boston University Tanglewood Institute allows high school students the opportunity to train with leading music professionals as well as the prestigious Boston Symphony Orchestra.

The institute offers intensive programs in orchestra, vocals, wind ensemble, piano, composition, and harp, as well as two-week workshops for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, saxophone, French horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, percussion, string quartet, and double bass. Each program varies in length and content, including master classes, workshops, and public performances with faculty, guest artists, and members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Applicants may schedule a live audition or submit a video audition online. Financial assistance is available in the form of merit- and need-based scholarships. The institute provides dormitory-style housing at Boston University’s West Campus. 

Intermuse International Music Institute and Festival USA

Mount St. Mary's University
Mount St. Mary's University. Guoguo12 / Wikimedia Commons

The Intermuse International Music Institute and Festival is a 10-day residential summer program for young chamber musicians hosted at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Students rehearse daily with internationally acclaimed faculty coaches and attend private lessons and studio master classes, with solo and ensemble performance opportunities throughout the session. The program also encourages an interdisciplinary approach to the arts, offering additional workshops on a range of topics, including performance psychology, dance, careers in music, and stage presence.

Applicants to the program will submit an online application as well as an unedited video of two contrasting works. At the conclusion of the program, several students are selected to participate in a short concert tour.

Midwest Young Artists’ Chicago Chamber Music Workshop

Young Hall at Lake Forest College
Young Hall at Lake Forest College. Royalhawai / Wikimedia Commons

The Chicago Chamber Music Workshop is a two-week comprehensive music camp for seventh through 12th graders presented by Midwest Young Artists, an acclaimed pre-college music institute and past winner of Chamber Music America’s Heidi Castleman Award for Excellence in Chamber Music Teaching.

Students are grouped into chamber music ensembles by age and ability. The ensembles rehearse daily and perform several concerts. Students are also able to participate in private lessons, master classes, and electives, including music theory, sonata, and music history.

The program is open to both nonresidential and residential students. Classes and rehearsals are held at the Midwest Young Artists Conservatory Center at Fort Sheridan in Highwood, Illinois. Applications to the program, as well as financial aid applications, are available online.

UNCG Summer Music Camp

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro Summer Music Camp offers two week-long camp sessions for high school students. Applicants to the camp may choose from programs such as orchestra, chorus, piano, and band and must provide contact information for their current music teachers for verification of musical skills and readiness for the program. With the exception of percussion and piano students, all participants are expected to bring their own instruments and a folding music stand to the sessions.

The program offers both residential and day camp options, with residential students housed in dorms on campus. During their free time, campers may visit the Elliott University Center, which houses a bookstore, coffee shop, and several fast-food restaurants.