KSU summer program promotes the arts

Renowned musician Helen Kim (in red) leads a group of high school students through an intensive strings session at KSU's summer program.

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

Renowned musician Helen Kim (in red) leads a group of high school students through an intensive strings session at KSU's summer program.

In August, when Grayson resident Ashlee McNeill enters Kennesaw State’s Theatre and Performing Studies program, she’ll already have a bevy of friends to connect with. As one of 196 students who spent a week at KSU’s Summer Arts Intensives program, McNeill met other like-minded peers who will be in classes with her this fall.

But making friends was just one perk of the program that draws rising ninth graders through high school seniors to campus for faculty-led sessions designed to sharpen their artistic talents.

“I look up to people like Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman, but theatrical acting is where I lack training,” said McNeill, 17. “This program has given me a lot of confidence. And it’s given me a glimpse of what I’ll be doing every day as a theater major at KSU.”

When launched more than a decade ago, the summer program was more of a music clinic, said Harrison Long, interim dean for the College of the Arts. Over the years, it’s expanded to include theatre and performance studies, dance, and art and design.

“These programs offer a rigorous, professional arts training experience with our accomplished faculty,” said Long. “Many of our students may not become professional artists, but they’re growing as human beings and engaged citizens. It’s also an opportunity for pre-college students to get a glimpse of what it’s like to be on a college campus.”

Violin professor Helen Kim, a renowned performer who has played with many of the area’s professional musical organizations, coordinated the sessions for violins, cellos and violas, and visited area schools to get the word out about the program. She ended up leading 32 students in the first in-person session in three years.

“We had freshmen through seniors who really wanted to be here,” she said. “Their attention was very focused, and they were hungry for interaction.”

Kim described the sessions as a “mini bootcamp.”

“It’s a way to get them on their summer practice on schedule,” she said. “We gave them handouts and links to online lessons because many students don’t take private lessons.”

McNeill noted that the program went beyond being just another summer camp.

“It felt more like a class I’d take; everything was very professional,” she said. “Yes, we learned dances and two songs every day, but they also gave us some education about the human body and the muscles you use when singing and breathing.”

The summer session also serves as a way to stretch the university beyond its Kennesaw campus.

“The College of the Arts plays a pivotal role in advancing KSU’s mission on community engagement,” said Long. “We see ourselves as the front porch of the university and are passionate about the service we provide to the community.”

Information about Kennesaw State’s College of the Arts and its programs is online at arts.kennesaw.edu.

SEND US YOUR STORIES. Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or 770-744-3042.