Ja Seng Pauhkum was first introduced to the violin when she was in the fourth grade and attending the Summer Institute for Young Artists camp that takes place each year at Owensboro High School.
The camp, hosted by the Owensboro Public Schools district but open to all area students, is an opportunity for students interested in a wide range of arts -- dance, choir, visual arts, orchestra, band and dance -- to be introduced to, as well as perfect, their skills.
Pauhkum, now a 17-year-old incoming-senior at OHS, entered SIYA camp as a child interested in choir. Her first year at camp she was given a violin to try out, and from there grew her love for the instrument. This year she returned to camp for the fifth time, but as one of the high school interns helping to instruct the young campers.
"There are so many little kids starting out as musicians, and that's something I experienced, so I wanted to help them out," Pauhkum said. "And to have fun, because that was the experience I had here."
The camp is beneficial, she said, because there are many art forms to try. The camp is a good way to involve kids in art and to help them figure out what art form they prefer, like the experience she had.
"I was in choir, but they took me in the room to try out violin one-on-one with the teacher, and now I'm here teaching the violin to kids," Pauhkum said.
Tom Stites, OPS coordinator of fine arts, said this year's SIYA camp is the largest he has seen with 162 students.
The camp is set up so that students pick a major from band, choir, orchestra, theater, dance or visual art, and an elective from theater, visual arts or instrumental exploration. There are often campers who return each year, and once they reach high school age they become interns to help instructors, Stites said.
Campers received a surprise this week when they were visited by former OPS student Kevin Olusola, a member of the Grammy-winning a-Capella group Pentatonix.
"He just walked in the door," Stites said. "He participated in our fine arts camp, the predecessor to SIYA, which was called Music at Maple Mount. The kids were very excited about it."
Stites said Olusola's message was that he was just like the campers not that long ago.
"He told them 'I was you a few years ago, sitting in those chairs and I was listening to other people talk about what you could become if you worked hard,'" Stites said. "It was a good message for our kids."
This is the first year that Sam Busse has attended SIYA camp, and the 11-year-old said he had heard it was a lot of fun.
Sam, who will be entering sixth grade next school year, wanted to practice working within the dramatic arts, something that interests him. He also chose instrumental exploration as an elective.
"They have a lot of stuff to do, and they could help me practice my drama," he said. "They can also show me what instrument I want to play for middle school because I'm interested in trying for the band."
He said the other campers are friendly and the teachers are helpful.
"It's a pretty nice camp," he said. "I like how there are so many different things to do."
Each year the camp takes on a theme, and this year's is Dr. Seuss. All week, students will create pieces of art, both visual and performance, based on that theme. The end of the two-week camp culminates in a performance and showcase at OHS. That event will be 6 p.m. June 7 in the OHS auditorium.
Bobbie Hayse, firstname.lastname@example.org, 270-691-7315.