Quartz Mountain students experience a different kind of summer camp

Quartz Mountain isn't a typical summer camp. Students practice for nearly six hours a day in their selected medium of art, and are grateful to be a part of the program.
BY ADAM KEMP akemp@opubco.com Published: June 18, 2011

— Clarence Ho has to step outside to tune his violin these days.

It's not the norm for Ho, a homeschooled student from Broken Arrow. He said he usually practices in silence.

But as his tuning fork sounds and his D string is brought to its perfect pitch, the front porch of his cabin in southwest Oklahoma is now his stage, complete with a full-moon spotlight.

“Tuning is a lot like taking pictures,” he said.

“You just have to know what you're looking for.”

Inside the cabin is what you would expect from a typical summer camp — a raucous common area, complete with a spirited game of cards in one corner while others sit on their bunks talking about that day's events: breakfast, girls, the evening dance show and girls.

But the abundance of musical instruments lying around is just the first of many clues that the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute, held each June at the Quartz Mountain Arts and Conference Center near Lone Wolf, isn't your average summer camp.

Creative environment

Starting with its first camp in 1977, the arts institute has been committed to giving high-school-age artists from across Oklahoma a creative environment to help hone their crafts.

The two-week fine arts camp, now in its second week, accepted 270 students into this year's program in disciplines ranging from classical ballet to filmmaking.

Christina Cheng, 17, was accepted to play in the orchestra; she has been first-chair violin at Putnam City North High School for the past two years.

But she said she was surprised when she was asked to rotate in as first chair at the institute, to which the students sometimes refer casually as “Quartz” or “Quartz Mountain.”

“I am so nervous now,” Cheng said during a reporter's visit in the first week of camp. “Here people are so good, and I have to live up to their expectations. It's a challenge.”

Halls lined with talent

The hallways of the main lodge are lined with talent, and spontaneous performances can break out in any direction.

One group gathers around a piano to practice the vocal piece they've been working on for the past couple of days.

It's an all-boys choir, but that doesn't stop two girls from wandering over to listen, sharing through gasps of delight, how great their sound is.

“It's definitely going to be hard to readjust back to the school choir,” said Jacob Davis, 15. “It's too much fun singing with people with this much talent; we have twice the sound of any choir I have sung in before.”

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