Ask kids for a quick list of cool summer entertainment and listen for the usual suspects: in-line skates, video games, a movie, maybe a book.
Then tell them they overlooked a key option: the pipe organ.
That's right, that majestic, pew-rattling, complicated king of instruments -- friend of Bach and a resonant voice in cathedrals. It may not seem to have the makings of a summer teen blockbuster. Many kids probably don't even know what one looks like. But to more than a few enthusiastic teens, the pipe organ is providing a resounding introduction this summer to one of the older forms of surround-sound.
Just ask the people at Pipe Organ Encounters camps, week-long events for teens held around the United States. A decade ago, the New York-based American Guild of Organists peered into the future and saw very few new faces to fill the benches of the nation's pipe organs. Undeterred by suggestions that the instrument was more linked in teens' minds with wingtips than Nikes, it set up the camps to allow kids to play, listen to, and even crawl inside these musical mammoths.
The camps' popularity goes to show adults shouldn't make assumptions about what students will and won't go for. To be interesting, arts education doesn't have to revolve around cutting-edge media. Just as opera surprised many by striking a chord with young adults, an aristocratic instrument with a centuries-old tradition is showing that it can lure video-generation members.
Granted, these teens are already musicians, typically intermediate-level pianists who are game to get their hands on two keyboards and their feet hovering above even bigger keys. But hey - it's a place where the lightning-quick finger-dancing of video games and some fancy soccer footwork might come in handy. And students and their parents can share the thrill of the instrument's stentorian tones.
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