Two Weeks of All Music
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Karl Bratton, who was its director for 22 years, founded the older more well known high school SYMS in 1947 after World War II. Bratton, a native of Kiowa, Kansas, served as director of a USO Club before coming to UNH in 1945. He was chair of the music department until 1964 and director of the highly acclaimed UNH Concert Choir. The group sang for President Eisenhower and their concerts were broadcast globally by the Armed Forces Radio and Television Services.

SYMS began with about 200 students—and tuition of $40 that included room and board—and reflected Bratton's vision: to provide excellent instruction and tutelage under notable professionals and freelance musicians, the opportunity to mix with other students, and perform high caliber music. With some tweaking, this is still the basic formula. In addition, students are part of performance groups much larger than those in their high schools, replete with a wider range of voice parts and lesser-known instruments: English horn, bass clarinet, piccolo trumpet, baritone saxophone, euphonium. The sound quality is often a cut above what students are used to.

Alexis Zaricki '76, '93G, program director for the department of music, talks about the mix of students who attend each year. Zaricki who majored in music education with a vocal emphasis, also taught at SYMS for several summers. On average, she says, 350-400 come to the two-week high school program in August—the highest being 525 one summer—and currently about 275 for the one-week junior SYMS in July, which in a better economy has reached 350. There is an even split of males and females in both groups.


"The beauty of the program" says Zaricki, "is that you have a real variety of kids who love to participate in music, but won't necessarily major in it. They get an opportunity to make music with students from other areas of the country, other backgrounds and walks of life. They are with people other than those in their school. It brings a different perspective and a richer life experience. It's a benefit no matter what you do afterwards."

"Even with the economy, attendance has been pretty steady," says Linda Seiler, an oboist with a degree in music education and performance and, since 1983, the SYMS "registrar." "About a third are repeaters. Students tell their friends 'SYMS was so great' and recruit others; a lot of it is by word of mouth." There is no admission audition per se, Seiler explains, but students bring a piece to play for the appropriate instructor: vocal, piano, strings, brass, woodwind, guitar, or percussion. From the auditions, students are placed in one or two performing groups. The more experienced players and singers may be in several groups. Many instrumentalists join a chorus if they like to sing. Students may also audition for the select groups: jazz band, select chorus, jazz choir or musical theater. The system seems to work. "We rarely have discipline problems. There is a sense of community; everyone is here for one reason: the discipline of music."

Mark DeTurk is the fourth director of SYMS since its inception. He is also coordinator of the UNH music education program and founder and director of the NH Youth Band. The SYMS esprit de corps, DeTurk contends, comes not only from a shared purpose but also from shared hardship. "We only get the ones who are tough enough to get through the school obstacle course," he says. He hears tales from students about high school guidance counselors who mistakenly steer kids away from the arts; counselors who hear college admissions officers say that music grades are given short shrift because they are not good predictors of how students will do in their required general education courses.

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