Music camp changed my life

February 26, 2014 | Focus On | Number 5
Angela Ishaka | Special to Canadian Mennonite
Ontario Mennonite Music Camp staff do their best to look cool at the 2013 talent show. Campers can judge whether they succeeded.

People who attend Ontario Mennonite Music Camp love this camp! They feel welcome and wanted right away, no matter who they are.

When I was in my middle school years, I wondered if it was cool to be musical. Early on, it was pretty clear that I had a natural talent for music. I took piano lessons and joined choirs, and loved it very much. As I got older and cliques started to form, I wasn’t usually part of the popular group, and as so many of us do in that vulnerable stage of life, I judged myself to be uncool.

At the end of Grade 8, my school music teacher asked if I wanted to attend the Mennonite music camp at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo. The thought made me nervous on two levels. Would I be super homesick again, as I was at another camp? Would I be with a bunch of others like me, uncool people who were music geeks?

My mom convinced me to try it, so I packed my bags with trepidation and toted my borrowed school violin to Grebel, a place with horrible memories of the Kiwanis Music Festival. But then I met my roommates, and voila, I was part of the group. Immediately I felt welcome.

I enjoyed every aspect of camp, even the sports and recreation. I was challenged in my strings master class to play first violin. Choir was totally fun. We put on a musical. We had banquets. We played practical jokes on the boys. We had a coffee house talent show and went swimming in a local pond. We sang silly songs at campfire and hymns in chapel, and I had a crush on a boy—all the ingredients to make a great camp experience.

Fifteen years later, a fellow chorister in Menno Singers asked if I’d be interested in counselling at the music camp. My extremely fond memories prompted me to say yes, and thus began a four-year involvement as choir director. When I saw the kids come to camp, I witnessed exactly what had happened to me. Shy kids were getting pulled into the action to have the time of their lives.

If you know of any kids aged 12 to 16 with even a small interest in music—they don’t have to play anything at a high level—tell them about the Ontario Mennonite Music camp. They are going to love it, and it might just change their life forever!

Angela Ishaka serves on the board of the Ontario Mennonite Music Camp.

--Posted Feb. 26, 2014

Ontario Mennonite Music Camp staff do their best to look cool at the 2013 talent show. Campers can judge whether they succeeded.

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