The majority of middle and high school students look toward their summer break as a chance to hang out with friends and get back into activities they didn't have time for during the school year.
Fortunately for teens looking to fill their summer with art and music — and for parents who prefer that their homes not be converted into a makeshift concert venue or artist's studio — Hillsboro Parks & Recreation Department offers Hillsboro Arts Summer (HAS) and Camp Amp for students ranging from incoming sixth graders to those entering their final year of high school.
"The original motivation," said HAS founder Jim Dunlap, "was that the kids in Hillsboro weren't getting enough electives."
Dunlap, a music teacher who was new to the Hillsboro area at the time, created HAS in 2007 after observing that art and music programs were just barely being squeezed into students' schedules. Dunlap imagined offering a summer program that would give students a chance to engage with the arts more freely, without the pressure of grades or homework assignments.
"I think it's allowed kids to just try things without worrying about a grade, without worrying about committing it to their schedule all the time — just for fun," Dunlap said.
HAS campers select one area that they would like to develop during the camp. They can choose from a variety of "majors," including mixed media art, film production, theater or jazz studies. Within each major, professional musicians and educators teach campers and encourage their growth and experimentation. To encourage a diversity of experiences, students must take electives outside of their major as part of the HAS curriculum.
After the success of HAS in its first year, Dunlap added Camp Amp in 2008. Although Camp Amp and HAS are officially listed as different programs, many students who attend HAS in the morning also attend Camp Amp, which begins after lunch in the same location.
Rather than focusing on more traditional musical styles, Camp Amp teens are put into rock bands and given a set of songs that the band is to learn over the next two weeks. In addition to getting feedback from Camp Amp staff members during rehearsals, teens also get the opportunity to design a band logo and T-shirt.
"It's really fun to see this group of strangers from different schools, different ages, different everything become this band. By the end of two weeks, they're traveling together and hanging out together and they're important to each other," Dunlap said.
"Artists don't tend to be highly organized. So for them to come in and have all of that taken care of, is great," Dunlap said.
Pam Cummings, a Hillsboro Parks & Recreation supervisor who is responsible for all of the communications and event planning for the camp, praises the HAS and Camp Amp programs for the opportunities it offers young artists and for the harmonious relationship the program has with the city.
Dunlap began the program when he saw a need in the community and now with the help and support of the city of Hillsboro, HAS and Camp Amp are consistently meeting their maximum capacity of campers.
"I think we get a lot of kids who haven't figured out where they fit in anywhere, but they fit in here," Dunlap said.
At the end of camp, HAS majors and Camp Amp bands shared their projects with the community and performed Thursday, July 19, at Century High School and on Saturday, July 20, at Celebrate Hillsboro.
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