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The New York Sun

Children Are Striving To Hit the Right Note for the Summer

By JULIA LEVY, Staff Reporter of the Sun

May 10, 2004
Copyright ©2004 The New York Sun, One SL, LLC. All rights reserved.

Sofia Mojica sits on stage, cradling her green electric bass, with her toes just touching the floor.

Her left foot shakes as she starts playing her first song, "My Little Sweat Shoes." By the time she moves onto the second tune, her fingers have more bounce and her foot is still.

Sofia, 11, is one of the hundreds of public school children vying for one of about 150 slots in the city's free music camp program. She says if the judges pick her, she'd be happy to give up a summer trip to visit family in Puerto Rico to stay in New York and go to camp at the Manhattan School of Music.

"I love music," she said. "There are not a lot of female bass players. I feel unique about that."

The camp started in 1999, but was axed last year because of budget cuts. A $150,000 payment from last fall's "Dave Matthews Band in Central Park - The AOL Concert for Schools" is funding the rebirth of the camp. Organizations including the National Endowment for the Arts, the UJA, and the Altman Foundation also have chipped in.

"It gives opportunities to those who don't have them and expands the opportunities for those who do," said the Department of Education's director of music, Nancy Shankman. She said the program also gives children who have mostly learned music in group settings like school bands the chance to have individual music lessons.

"We hope to keep it going," she said. "And hopefully provide some year-round opportunities."

The program, which accepts public school children from the fifth through eighth grades, runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for five weeks this summer.

Children will attend music classes in the morning. After lunch, they'll have a recreation hour followed by electives that range from chamber music to belly dancing to arts and crafts.

Each child will also have a one-on-one lesson once a week, said the executive director of the camp, Joanne Polk.

At Friday's tryout, which was the third of four, children practiced flute and violin in the hallway and shifted through sheet music as they waited their chance to go before the four judge panel.

Nancy Zhang,11,prefaced her tryout by informing the panel that she was "really nervous."

After she played Vivaldi's Concerto in A minor and had returned to the hallway to put her violin back in its case, she admitted, "I was so nervous. I think my legs were shaking. I think I didn't play as well as I should have. Sometimes I can't stretch my fingers all the way."

Aundrei Fuller, 11, skipped school at M.S. 210 in Ozone Park, Queens so he could make it to the audition, where he sang "Circle of Life" from "The Lion King."

"It's really, really inspiring," he said of his song choice.

Kai Payne, 11, who played "Beauty and the Beast" and "Linus and Lucy," said after an extra hour of practice he was all set for the tryout and wasn't a slight bit nervous.

Children will find out if they were admitted within the next few weeks.

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