Music Mad Families choose to holiday at a Devon Summer School which gives children a lifelong passion for music


- Credit: Archant

Families who are passionate about music are choosing the International Summer School at Dartington, South Devon to inspire their children with a range of courses ranging from “Dirty Electronics” to an Orchestral Workshop, Songs from the Musicals and a Gospel Choir. The Summer School runs for three weeks from 26 July to 16 August and is located on the magnificent Dartington Estate in Totnes.

This year the Summer School is seeing an increase in interest from families who want to choose an educational break that all the family can enjoy. Programme Manager, Justine Peberdy, comments, “The Summer School is ideal for families with children who have perhaps already been introduced to classical music; maybe they are learning to play an instrument, or they sing in a choir already, whatever their level of expertise Dartington will inspire them. They will be surrounded by people of all ages whose common bond is a love of music, the keen beginner, the enthusiastic amateur and the talented student aspiring to the level of the top performers who form the teaching faculty and give concerts.”

There are programmes of courses which are open to anyone of any age and any ability and for which no musical experience is necessary. In each week there is Tai Chi Qigong in the morning, Exploration Sessions in the afternoon and a fabulous evening concert.

The Messenger family from Rural Yorkshire has spent many years coming to the Summer School and tells how the School has played a key part in their family holidays. Now in his early fifties, John Messenger says, “We have four children aged 12 to 19. My wife first attended DISS when she was a student around 1980 I think, and I first attended in around 1986.” The family has spent many holidays at DISS subsequently and have seen the benefits of introducing their children to classical music.

“Our children are all musically accomplished, from enthusiastic learners to post-grade 8 players, and one is likely to make music his career. Most of them play more than one instrument to a good standard. Their first instruments are violin and ‘cello, but there are other instruments in the mix including jazz trombone, piano and bassoon.

“Dartington provides many unexpected opportunities, and one year I found myself performing my favourite choral piece, Britten’s Hymn to St. Cecilia with the chamber choir which was later broadcast on Radio 3. For a very amateur tenor, that was a big thrill. Typically we will join either the main choir or the main orchestra for the morning session, and then do chamber music or other courses during the rest of the day. Our children also do choir or orchestra and have very much enjoyed the Gamelan and the Jazz courses.

“The evening concerts are an important part of the DISS experience and I have strong memories of hearing things which I would never have listened to otherwise, such as the complete Bartok string quartets. The summer school can be a very intense experience, totally filling one’s life for a week from waking to sleeping, and typically culminating in a performance on the Friday night which is fulfilling and successful, in a way that as recently as Thursday morning one would not have dreamed possible.”

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The Messenger family recommend camping on the Dartington Estate as the perfect recipe for a successful Dartington family experience. Families can either bring their own tents, caravan or campervan and the cost is £464 for an adult and £230 for a child aged between 5 and 15. The cost covers the pitch and all courses. There is also a tented village which provides a tent and all meals. The cost for this is £567 per adult and £400 for a child aged between 5 and 15. A whole range of other accommodation is also available ranging from luxurious rooms in the Medieval Courtyard to basic hostel style.

When asked if the Dartington experience was worthwhile and represented value for money, John Messenger comments “In terms of value for money, I have no doubts. The experience is priceless and can be instrumental in enlivening one’s interest in playing or singing, whether for an adult or a child.”