Polygence blog / Research Opportunities and Ideas

The 7 Best Summer Music Programs for High Schoolers

4 minute read

Summer is a unique time in the music world. It’s when we step away from our usual routines, attend outdoor concerts, and meet and perform with new friends. As a professional musician, I approach each summer as an opportunity for creativity, growth, and artistic reflection. For musicians in high school, summer programs are a great way to make the most of this annual ritual.

When I was in high school, I attended a summer music camp a few hours away from where I lived. It was the first time in my life when I was truly focused on music (thankfully, there were also “Mandatory Fun Days” built in to keep me from spending all of my time composing). That summer, I composed my first ever piece of classical music, a string trio. Now, as a professional composer, I am still in touch with the friends and mentors that I met there.

How Do I Choose a Summer Music Program in High School?

There are countless summer music programs to choose from, and no two are the same. In addition to finding a music program that is suited to your individual stylistic preferences (e.g. jazz vs. classical), it is also crucial that you select a program that provides a good environment for you to thrive in. The best summer music programs stimulate creativity while offering personalized instruction and support.

Here are my picks for the seven best summer music programs for high school students, based on my own experiences, the experiences of my colleagues, and my research.

Do your own research with Polygence this summer!

Polygence pairs you with an expert mentor in your area of passion. Together, you work to create a high quality research project that is uniquely your own.

1. The Walden School

  • Ages: 9 - 18

  • Location: Dublin, New Hampshire

  • Length of program: Five weeks (elementary and middle school students have the option to attend for just the first three weeks)

  • Tuition: $9,300 ($6,200 for younger students attending the first three weeks only)

  • Housing: included in tuition

  • Applications due: February

The Walden School is one of the best places for musicians (especially composers and improvisers) to spend the summer. Founded in 1972, the school hosts a summer music program for young musicians, as well as a residency program for professionals. 

Led by an all-star team of music educators, the Walden School Young Musicians Program emphasizes creativity and community through innovative and intensive instruction. The program teaches composition, improvisation, and musicianship skills to all students, setting the goal for everyone to compose an original work throughout the summer. As a professional composer, I have several colleagues who attended the Walden School during high school and had fantastic experiences!

2. Morse Summer Academy at Yale

  • Grades: 3 - 12 in New Haven Public Schools

  • Location: New Haven, Connecticut

  • Length of program: One month

  • Tuition: Free

  • Housing: N/A

  • Applications due: Varies

For music students at New Haven public schools, the Morse Summer Academy at the Yale School of Music is an opportunity to work intensively with some of the country’s top teaching artists. The program, which is taught by a combination of faculty from Yale and New Haven public schools, is completely free for all participants. Students have access to private lessons, performance opportunities, music education seminars, and even ensemble instruction. The Yale School of Music is one of the most prestigious graduate conservatories in the country; their Music in Schools Initiative (of which the Morse Summer Academy is one piece) remains one of their top priorities.

3. NYO-USA, NYO2, and NYO-Jazz

  • Ages: 16 - 19 (for NYO2, the age range is 14 - 17)

  • Location: Residency at SUNY Purchase, followed by group tour

  • Length of program: Approx. one month

  • Tuition: Free

  • Housing: Free

  • Applications due: Early December

The National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America (NYO-USA) is Carnegie Hall’s annual program for exceptional young performers. I attended one of their concerts at Carnegie Hall a few years ago and was blown away by the level of this ensemble! Be warned: acceptance into the program is highly competitive, with some spots going to freshmen at colleges and conservatories. But, the program is free for all participants. 

Also check out: NYO2, Carnegie Hall’s orchestra for high school students who are 14 - 17, and NYO-Jazz, their youth jazz ensemble.

Do you hear the people sing?

Interested in Music? We'll match you with an expert mentor who will help you explore your next project.

4. Meadowmount

  • Ages: 13 - 30+

  • Location: Westport, New York

  • Length of program: Six weeks

  • Tuition: $5,300

  • Housing: $3,900

  • Applications due: January

Meadowmount has been around since 1944, when it began as an intensive training program for young violinists, violists, and cellists. Today, the program accepts about 200 students annually, and is still limited to violinists, violists, and cellists. Participants are housed in cabins, houses, and dormitories on their 250-acre campus and grouped by age and gender. 

Although the program is intense (their website suggests that several hours of practice per day is the norm), alumni of the program report serious musical growth. And, in addition to private lessons and chamber music coaching, the coursework includes yoga and meditation classes.

5. Interlochen Center for the Arts: Summer Arts Camp

  • Grades: 3 - 12

  • Location: Interlochen, Michigan

  • Length of program: One, three, or six weeks

  • Tuition: Varies by length of program (more info)

  • Housing: Included in tuition

  • Applications due: Varies

Interlochen is one of the most well known summer music programs for high school students. It’s also home to one of the country’s top arts high schools, the Interlochen Arts Academy. Both programs are known for their interdisciplinary study environments (students can concentrate in music, creative writing, dance, film, and more). In the case of the Summer Arts Camp, I think this is a notable advantage over other programs out there. In short, Interlochen is a very recognizable name in the music world, and for good reason.

6. Berklee ASPIRE 

  • Ages: 15+

  • Location: Boston, Massachusetts

  • Tuition: $5,430

  • Housing: $4,200

  • Length of program: Five weeks

  • Applications due: Varies

Like Berklee College, the ASPIRE summer music program for high school students focuses on contemporary musical styles, such as pop, rock, jazz, singer-songwriter, and electronic genres. Berklee also offers specific sessions throughout the summer that are tailored to individual instruments or fields, like drums and percussion, gospel, musical theater, and music business.

7. Boston University Tanglewood Institute

  • Ages: 14 - 20

  • Location: Lenox, Massachusetts

  • Length of program: Four weeks

  • Tuition: $3,480

  • Housing: $2,420

  • Applications due: January

The Boston University Tanglewood Institute (BUTI) has close ties to the Boston Symphony Orchestra and to the famous Tanglewood Music Center, where Leonard Bernstein studied, performed, and taught conducting each summer for half a century. The Tanglewood Institute offers several programs for young musicians, including composers (acoustic and electroacoustic), orchestral musicians (strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion), harpists, and vocalists.

Polygence Scholars Are Also Passionate About

Are there Other Opportunities for Summer Music Studies?

In addition to those listed above, there are hundreds of programs throughout the country for summer music study. Are you looking for a program that takes place online? Are you curious about 1:1 resources for studying music over the summer or during the school year? If you are a high school student and a musician, Polygence can match you with an expert mentor to guide you through a personalized music project. You’ll get to choose your own project and work directly with music composers, songwriters, and even researchers in music cognition from start to finish. 

Ready to learn more? Click here to check out Polygence’s Core Program and get expert guidance on your personal music project!

Express Your Creative Side

Interested in visual arts, music, or literature? We can match you with an expert mentor who will help you explore your creative streak!