What’s New with U? – Week 7

Week Seven has drawn to an end — and, sadly, that means we are saying goodbye to our time at Usdan. We leave on a high note, with memories of parades and carnivals dancing in our heads, and incredible performances and innovative collaborations putting smiles on our faces. Most of all, we part with a sincere appreciation of the friends we’ve made and the fun had by all.

As we close out the season, we want to thank you for being an integral part of our Usdan community and invite you back again next year.

Until then, here are some of the sights and sounds from campus this week.





It’s not like there’s a simple answer to every artistic problem. It’s a judgment call, and that judgment call is based on what you know is your voice. It’s also based on having broad knowledge of what work in this discipline looks like…what makes it strong, and what makes it weak. – Lauren Brandt Schloss


FROM MY PERSPECTIVE – Creative Writing

Heather Millman has attended Usdan Summer Camp for the Arts for three summers and is going into eleventh grade. The following is an excerpt from an essay she wrote that was recently featured in Teen Vogue:

I remember my first day at Usdan. I was shaking harder than the leaves on the tall, tall trees. My sweaty hands gripped the straps of a new backpack while I impatiently hopped from foot to foot. My emotions were flying all over the place. I didn’t know what to expect; I had never been to summer camp before, never mind one for the arts. What if my teachers disliked me? What if I wasn’t good enough at the classes I was taking? I prayed I wouldn’t get lost. Just thinking about it made me anxious.

I’ve felt like an outcast before. It’s like being a stranger to everyone, like you’re watching them through a TV screen. At school, I sometimes feel like I have no friends. When I was younger, I used to have tons of them, but we drifted apart. Our interests changed. I forgot how to speak to people. I was awkward. I preferred to be on the outside.

And, sometimes I still feel alone, but it’s different at Usdan. I don’t have to pretend. I know I’m safe. I also know that I’ll be going back to school with no friends when summer is over. But this is the story of my first day — when I found a place where I know I can be happy.

When they finally allowed us inside to find our classes, I took a deep breath. There was a faint smell of pine in the air, the sounds of birds singing, and bugs buzzing. The camp felt alive, like it was trying to comfort me. I didn’t have to worry about homework or grades; all I had to do was show up and make art.

Read the rest of Heather’s Teen Vogue piece here.

TEACHING U: Meet the “Lifers”

Over the last few weeks, we’ve introduced you to teachers throughout the various departments — many of whom were new to the Usdan team. This week, with community on our minds, we turned our attention to the “lifers” — those who have chosen to attend and/or teach at Usdan for extended periods of time. There are quite a few in our midst, but we were able to catch up with three to ask them about what brings them back to Usdan.

First up: Dave Schaeffler. 2017 marks Dave’s 36th summer at Usdan. Dave was a camper in the late ‘70s-early ’80s. He returned to work at Usdan, first in the Scene Shop and in Video Arts, before becoming the House Manager of the McKinley Amphitheater – a position he’s held for 17 years.

What brings you back to Usdan year after year?  
I’ve always looked at Usdan as a place where kids can be themselves, explore, and improve on things they enjoy doing. I have been a high school teacher for 22 years, and I enjoy spending my summers at Usdan, seeing the excitement on kids’ faces when they are here.

How has working at Usdan helped with your year-round work?
I am always learning from the incredibly talented teachers and artists that come to Usdan. There is a high energy during the summers at Usdan, and I try and bring that energy back to my classroom.

What is your favorite Usdan U design and why?
The balloon U. Why? The last day of camp celebrations.

Next, we have Karina Aristy. Karina has been playing the violin since she was nine years old. She was given the title of Concert Mistress from Grade 7 through Grade 12 before going on to study violin, viola and cello in college. Karina has been teaching students of all ages for over five years. She believes in the value of a well-rounded education and makes sure that each of her students can read, write, and perform music to the best of their abilities. Her favorite quote: “Without music, life would be a mistake.” – F.W. Nietzsche

What brings you back to Usdan year after year?
Ever since I was 14, Usdan has been my happy place. I look forward to the summers because of Usdan. While I was a student, I constantly returned for the enriched experiences that Usdan provides, like the daily assemblies with renowned artists, the various ensembles, as well as participating in the highlight of the summer — the annual Gala. Even as an adult, Usdan continues to be my happy place! I learn from my students as much as I hope they learn from me. It makes me proud to see their growth and accomplishments over the season.

How has working at Usdan helped with your year-round work and art?
Usdan’s diverse community has helped me adapt to the various types of students I encounter in my private studio. Being able to interact with students of various ages has allowed me to fine-tune my teaching skills.

What is your favorite Usdan U design and why?
I can’t help but choose the Music U! The Music department at Usdan is where I found my calling — to be a music educator.

Finally, there’s Lorraine Angeletti. This is Lorraine’s 12th season at Usdan. You can usually find her in the Art area inspiring her students to paint creative canvases such as shoes and keyboards. Lorraine is an artist, educator, and writer. Her creative soul finds emotional and spiritual expression though a variety of media. A Graduate of FIT, LIU CW Post, and SUNY Stony Brook, Lorraine presented her collaborative art installation titled Tree of Life Exploration at a gallery in Huntington earlier this summer.

What brings you back to Usdan year after year?
Each time I return to the campus, I feel excited and inspired. Being close to nature and immersed within the supportive, artistic environment at Usdan feeds my creative soul.

How has working at Usdan helped with your year-round work and art?
Working with outstanding colleagues has afforded me the opportunity to collaborate within the Art Department as well as across disciplines. Last summer, I presented my Art & Yoga workshop with Edna and her students. This summer, I collaborated with several teachers: Lori and I worked on the painted Sousaphone; Dana, Sibel and I presented a Tree of Life installation in the gallery; and  I developed a guided meditation which was inspiration for metal embossing for my students as well as Valerie’s.

Such collaboration is a luxury in public school, though students greatly benefit from such exploration. In addition to observing students learn and grow over the years, I know first-hand the strong contribution Usdan makes from my own family experience. My daughter Marissa attended Usdan for two seasons. She expressed the sentiment of many students when she exclaimed, “Mom, I found my people!”

What is your favorite Usdan U design and why?
My favorite U is the rainbow. The positive symbol of great expectations, and the colors resonate with me.

VIEWS-DAN: Community at the Core of What Makes Usdan Unique

At Usdan, one of the most important core principles is that of a commitment to community—encouraging friendships, collaborations, and sharing work throughout the creative process. It’s something that has been part of Usdan’s DNA from the beginning.

During its very first summer in 1968, one thousand New York-area children from backgrounds as varied and vibrant as New York itself, arrived at the newly created Usdan to pursue their shared love of the arts. The extraordinary inaugural enrollment was testimony to the vision and dedication of the camp’s founders and faculty, comprised of prominent artists and teachers from the country’s leading conservatories and universities. Finding one’s own voice and talents through learning in a diverse group has been part of the culture from the beginning.

Usdan is a community of makers and dreamers. It’s a place that calls to the artist in everyone. Each summer, campers whose personal lives and stories represent a multiplicity of ages, abilities, economics, geographies, races, and genders converge here to create. Usdan’s magnetic pull draws gifted faculty, staff and visiting artists as well, all of whom are chosen to be here not only for their professional expertise but also for their dedication to the camp’s mission.

And, while the art is top priority, of equal importance is the bond that is formed: camper to camper, instructor to instructor, faculty to student.  It’s those bonds that fuel the Usdan experience.

But, whether or not art becomes a professional calling as it has for Usdanites such as Natalie Portman, Jackie Hoffman, Stacey London, Jane Monheit, Mariah Carey, Juilliard conductor Adam Glaser, or the many others who are members of major American orchestras, dance, and theater companies, we hope that the Usdan experience instills courage in our campers to make creative contributions in their worlds and to foster relationships that truly last a lifetime.

Let us know what brings you back to Usdan every year: questions@usdan.org

If you’d like to see a summer of videos, check out our youtube channel.

See you in 2018.

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