Warren County Summer Music School students practice in a drum circle. Photo submitted.

Warren County Summer Music School Celebrates 35 Years of Arts Education

April 26, 2024

WARREN, Pa. – Thirty-five years ago a pair of educators wanted to find a way to give Warren County students an additional avenue to music education. Now, the Warren County Summer Music School has expanded to include a full spectrum of arts education.

The 35th annual WCSMS will be held from June 10 – 24 at Beaty Warren Middle School. Classes take place from 8:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“(Music) is our core thing,” WCSMS Director Denise Pearson said in an interview with Your Daily Local. “But the visual arts have just exploded. I mean, kids want to take drawing and painting and sculpture and fiber arts. And so yeah, we provide that especially because with the way the scheduling is in the middle school and the high school now in the school district. A lot of times kids can’t take music classes, and this is their chance.”

With the explosion of interest in visual arts, Pearson said more advanced visual arts classes will be offered this summer.

“We are offering more of the advanced drawing classes like there’s an advanced drawing of face and figure, a brand new class architectural design,” Pearson said.

Some of this year’s curriculum was designed specifically to attract older students.

“For years, the biggest number of kids were the incoming fifth graders, and then six, and then the others kind of petered off,” Pearson said. “Right now I’m seeing a lot more older kids.”

Of course, a program like WCSMS doesn’t stick for 35 years without changing with the times.

“Ashley Sprandle, who’s a marvelous visual artists teacher, said, ‘I’d like to offer a class called Viral Trends,’” Pearson said. “You know, what’s coming up on these apps TikTok and things. The kids aren’t going to see TikTok, but what’s the current thing.”

Though there’s always an eye on the future, WCSMS also relishes in its past.

“I just had a call this morning from a former Warrenite who’s in South Carolina now,” Pearson said. And she wanted to contribute money. I mean, people reach out to us because they know the program at this point. And two of the people that were there, the very first-year students, Michelle Belleau, and Aaron Reinhard, they’re on our staff now. And that’s really fun. You know, they were there from the very beginning, and they’re quite passionate.”

One of the WCSMS’s trademarks is choosing a different color shirt every year. This year, the plan is to show students the entire collection.

“Because it’s the 35th, we’re gonna hang, because we have one of each shirt, all the shirts in the lobby,” Pearson said. “And it’s fun when kids come in, and their moms and dads come and that was my color.”

But it’s the program’s singularity, Pearson said, that makes it stand out.

“We are unique,” Pearson said. “There’s no other program like this in the United States. And I think that’s because of the funding we had from the very beginning. Kay Logan, who was the wife of Harry Logan, the refinery owner. She was a music educator. And they funded that from the very beginning. And even at her death, her foundation is still contributing heavily to this.”

Speaking of funding. Pearson said the Community Foundation of Warren County contributes to help the program offer bus service for program students.

“Our program does have bus stops throughout the county, which is really helpful,” Pearson said. “It’s expensive, but it’s something we’re really committed to and the Community Foundation has thus far partnered with us in funding that.”

Adults can also register for classes, with the added benefit of being able to pick and choose which classes they want. Adults are not required to fill the 5-class daily schedule.

“There’s one woman that learns a new instrument every year, in addition to playing what she already plays,” Pearson said. She’s one of the first ones to sign up every year. Isn’t that cool? And it’s so nice for the kids, I think to see (music is) a lifelong thing to do.”

Registration is now open online for the 35th Warren County Summer Music School. Kids going into 5th grade through adults are eligible to register. The cost is $150 per student, though financial aid is available for those who need it.

“If somebody wants to be there, we want them to be there,” Pearson said. “We hope that they’ll sign up.”

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