One group of Wilton teens loves music so much, they spent part of their summer helping younger kids grow to love it too, through Wilton Roots of Music, a two-week summer camp the teens run on their own. For the last two weeks of August, they aimed to plant the seeds of music knowledge and instrumental playing with about 50 children, as part of a cost-free, day-long experience at Comstock Community Center.

The camp was created four years ago by two former Wilton High School students, Isabella Palacpac and Vivian Hong. Every year it gets passed down to rising seniors in the WHS music program to run for the following summer, and they recruit about a dozen fellow high school students to be counselors.

The teens run the program completely on their own, in classrooms at Comstock Community Center yet independent of the Parks and Recreation programs. The camp meets weekdays from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., and during that time counselors lead campers through both group activities and private instrument or singing lessons.

“When the group is together, we have a bunch of different activities–some music based, some not so music based. We also do music theory lessons every day. We also play musical chairs and we teach them different music genres and play games based on that–like we play a song and say, ‘What genre is this?’ for classical, pop, rock, stuff like that,” explains current Roots of Music co-president, WHS senior Emma Driver.

During the week GOOD Morning Wilton visited camp, there were 26 kids between the age of 4-10 years old taking part. Impressively, with not one adult around, the teens kept all the campers engaged, well-behaved and participating in games about music terminology (what’s the difference between pianissimo and pianississimo?) and reading musical notes (who can clap out this beat?).

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Campers are recruited through word of mouth and families that register their children every year, as well as through flyers posted in churches and schools. Families fill out a survey and indicate what instruments their children would like to learn, and then lessons are organized around the requests.

“We take that information and say, ‘All right, who do we know who is good with kids, who can teach the instrument and who would like to help out with this?’ We try to find counselors who can teach everything that the kids want to learn. Last year we didn’t have guitar being taught, so this year we found a girl who could teach guitar,” Driver says.

This year campers were offered instruction in several different instruments­–violin, viola, cello, trumpet, drums, and piano, as well as voice lessons. While some children opt not to do private lessons, most do get pulled out of the group for one-on-one instruction.

“Sometimes we have so many kids interested in voice, the voice lessons will be two kids to a counselor and they’ll do a little duet at the end of the week,” Driver adds.

Perhaps one of the best things about the camp is that it’s completely free for children to attend. The camp is completely non-profit–the parents don’t pay anything and the teens don’t get paid anything.

Instead, they take satisfaction knowing they’re sharing something that they love.

“Music has always been a source of joy for me and is wonderful at expressing a wide range of emotions. Whatever your mood is, music can always help you express what you’re feeling in a positive way,” says Driver. “I think it’s important for kids to have that outlet and be able to express creativity and emotion.”

That’s something that should be music to any parents’ ears.

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Find out more about enrolling in next summer’s Wilton Roots of Music program via email.  

The story was updated to add the name of the Roots of Music co-founder.