For 70 Years, Smith Alums
Teach Music in the Berkshires
more than 70 years, a small group of Smith alumnae have made
a lasting impact on the lives of thousands of young musicians
at Greenwood Music Camp (GMC), a pioneering summer program
tucked in the Berkshire hills.
Greenwood Music Camp, which
is located on a sprawling plot of hilled, wooded land on the
rural outskirts of Cummington, Massachusetts (about 30 miles
north of Northampton), accommodates about 100 teenagers during
two sessions each summer. The teen musicians at GMC study
chamber music, sing in choruses, perform in orchestras and
practice their instruments, while spending their off hours
tossing Frisbees, kicking softballs and riding bikes.
Since it was founded in 1933,
Greenwood Music Camp has always been run by Smith alumnae.
In addition, many Smith faculty members have taught at the
Dorothy “Bunny” Fay
Little ’27 and Ruth Hill McGregor ’30 originally
opened the camp with the belief that an experience of living
in a supportive, healthy environment and contributing to the
performance of history’s great chamber works would result
in profound musical and personal growth for young people.
In 1983, after running GMC for
its first 50 years, the founders passed the baton to two more
Smith alumnae, Deborah Sherr ’73 and Sally Bagg ’57,
who have directed the program since. Sherr operates the camp’s
senior division (ages 13 to 18), a five-week session which
ended this year on August 7. Bagg directs the junior division
(ages 10 to 13), which will run from August 13 through 28.
Despite the change in supervision,
the mission and philosophy of GMC’s founders remains,
says Bagg, who also directs the instrumental music program
at the Smith College Campus School. “One of the strongest
parts of the Greenwood experience is that our founders have
created a framework of work, play and music-making, which
we have not needed to change in almost 75 years,” says
Bagg. “They began the camp with a clear idea of not
only how they wanted to teach the students musically, but
also to teach what else mattered in community life with music
at its center.”
In the early days, Bagg explains,
the young campers helped maintain and clean the camp grounds
in addition to making music -- mowing, weeding, painting,
and sometimes repairing roofs -- to provide them with a broad
base of experience. Though the riskier jobs have been removed
from their list of duties, campers to this day work on the
grounds in the afternoons.
GMC was the first music camp
of its kind, says Bagg: a camp for young people that focused
solely on music. Since then, it has served as a model for
many music camps. The music camp was recently awarded the
Citation of Excellence from Chamber Music America for “fostering
the musical growth of young chamber musicians for 70 years,”
according to the citation.
Though the succession of Smith
alumnae directors at GMC was not intended, it has at least
provided a continuity of commitment to high-quality musical
education and a holistic life experience, Bagg says.
According to those who have attended
(many successful musicians among them), the weeks spent at
GMC have had a lifelong impression.
“Greenwood clearly changed
my life, directed me towards my ultimate goals and provided
me a foundation for my musical life,” says Gilbert Kalish,
a renowned pianist, who was the longtime chair of faculty
at Tanglewood Music Center and is now head of performance
activities at the State University of New York at Stony Brook,
on the camp’s Web site. “And it has given a ‘present’
to my three wonderful children of the joys of music.”
Bagg, a cellist, is also an alumna
of GMC, having attended in the 1940s. She believed so strongly
in the program that she sent her children there as well.
“Generations of adolescents
have attended Greenwood and have remained attached to the
camp and its alumnae,” she says. “The Greenwood
experience has been one of the most important shaping times
in their lives.”