The NSO runs renowned Summer Music Camp, which had its roots in a Summer String School founded by Paul van Dongen in 1962. The camp is unique in the province and one of only a handful of similar camps across the country. Among the many respected instructors in the early days were Jacob Groob from Toronto, Berul Sugarman, and Edward Bartlett. It remained a string school during July until 1972 when instruction in brass, woodwind and percussion was introduced. Originally these programs were presented at no cost to the students. The symphony association worked in co-operation with the board of education. In 1979 a classical guitar program was added to the summer music school.
By the 1990’s the Summer Music Camp had expanded to a month long program divided into two 2-week sessions. The classes offered at the Summer Music Camp still included strings, brass, woodwinds, and percussion but now also offered harp, piano, choir and Orff.
Today there is also a rainbow music program for very young campers who can choose to study vocals, ukulele, Harpsicles®, and percussion. Recorder, handbells, ukulele and Music for Young Children piano are options for slightly older campers. The second session offers a jazz option, as well as concert band and orchestra, and focuses on older students.
SMC also now offers an Academy program. The Academy @ SMC is designed to challenge, support and inspire serious, advanced students of music by immersing them in theory studies and private instruction, continuing their skills development over the summer.
All campers learn from highly qualified instructors; members of the SMC teaching faculty are professional musicians (many members of the NSO) and music educators, dedicated to nurturing a love of music and its performance while developing strong technical and ensemble skills.
SMC had many homes over the years, starting in the Kindergarten room at Memorial Public School, and later moving to Rodman Hall, St. Catharines Collegiate, and West Park H.S. Now SMC is presented in partnership with Ridley College, St. Catharines.