New Servant Leadership in Music Camp creates inspiring, musical leaders

<p>A high school student conducts his fellow campers at GVSU's Servant Leadership in Music camp on June 20. </p>
<p>Courtesy / Caitlin Cusack</p>

A high school student conducts his fellow campers at GVSU's Servant Leadership in Music camp on June 20. 

Courtesy / Caitlin Cusack

Jenny Adkins

As young instrumentalists begin their musical education in school, the bulk of their learning involves understanding how to read and perform music. Once they approach a level where they want to become leaders in their band or ensemble, their education begins to incorporate inspiring musical leadership, the focus of Grand Valley’s Servant Leadership in Music Camp on Tuesday. 

Servant leadership involves less of being a “manager” and more of assisting peers through acting in a way that inspires others, Department of Music and Dance Professor Kevin Tutt said. Camp Student Leader Anna Petrenko said that the day involves a variety of activities that both teaches young musicians what servant leadership is and gives them tools to impart their musical understanding to their peers in a constructive way.

“(The students) start with team building and gradually focusing on score studying, fundamentals of music, fundamentals of (being) a servant leader,” Petrenko said. “(They) understand what it means to be a true leader in an ensemble and how to achieve the goals as a team, not just as a person who dictates what the ensemble should be doing.”

Tutt said the camp uses both musical and non-musical skills to teach the participating middle and high school students how to be strong, uplifting leaders. Similar to how a lab class is structured, the camp is structured in a way that instructs students on a variety of skills, then asks them to apply those skills in a hands-on situation. 

One particular appeal of the camp is its uniqueness relative to other music camps, Tutt said. With servant leadership being a subject matter scarcely discussed in this setting, Tutt said the camp was developed to coincide with how he teaches his students.

“The (music education) industry is geared toward camps that improve musicianship or… specific leadership techniques, like ‘Here’s how you conduct,’” Tutt said. “In deciding how we were going to serve the community around Grand Valley, there’s nothing like this (camp) that particularly addresses these issues in this way anywhere that we could find.” 

For Camp Student Leader Erin Ray, a valuable takeaway from the camp is that servant leadership can be applied outside a musical scenario. Ray said that wherever students go, they can use the skills acquired in school, work or their personal lives.

“Although it also takes a level of understanding and practice to excel in music, the skills gained from it can be used in everyday life,” Ray said. “Planning, organizing and thinking analytically about something before you dive into a challenge will help yield positive results. It is more than just communication and understanding.”

With a program like Servant Leadership in Music Camp being uncommon locally, the opportunity is one that students should seek to take advantage of when it returns next summer, Petrenko said. As a music education major, Petrenko said the most rewarding aspects of such a rare opportunity are students being able to apply the skills they learn wherever they go.

“Sometimes, the students eagerly tell you that (the camp inspired them),” Petrenko said. “Other times, it may take months, or even years before they understand how big of an impact this camp had on them. I just know that the topics we are discussing are worthwhile, and if I had the opportunity to have done this when I was in high school, I would have.”