News Education / Vermont

Love the Arts? Explore Creativity at UVM Summer Academy

Share this post

By Natalie Neuert

My parents had a general guideline for my school years: good grades, one sport, and one arts activity. It turns out that the arts completely captured my interest when I was a student, and I’ve been lucky enough ever since to spend my life exploring music, theater, and culture.

As director of the Lane Series and a staff member at UVM Continuing and Distance Education, my job is to establish arts programming for a variety of audiences. When we first started considering the 2014 course offerings for Summer Academy at the University of Vermont, there was much shared enthusiasm about STEM – science, technology, engineering, and math. As important and relevant as these classes are, a little voice inside of me wondered, “But what about the arts? What about the kids who live to sing, dance, play, draw, or write?”

I was one of those kids, and I’m now the mother of one. I know how hard it is to find serious, high-quality, rigorous, yet fun and social summer programs that are affordable to high school students. I’m pleased to share that Summer Academy will offer a new arts track in 2014 that includes dance, music, theatre, and writing.

What exactly is UVM Summer Academy? Now in its second year, Summer Academy is a four-week residential program open to high school juniors and seniors that gives students the opportunity to live on-campus and get a head start on college. Summer Academy consists of two weeks of on-campus learning (June 30-July 11 or July 14-25) and two weeks of online learning (July 12-25 or July 26-Aug 8). Twenty courses will be offered through Summer Academy, and participants will earn at least 3 college credits, which may be transferred to almost any college or university.

A Focus on the Arts
For the Summer Academy arts track, we are offering Latin jazz, a dance performance workshop, acting/improv, and creative writing.

Student musicians who love jazz and want to expand their knowledge and skills will enjoy the Latin Jazz Immersion. What’s unique about it? For one thing, it’s led by critically-acclaimed musician Arturo O’Farrill, a truly towering figure of Latin jazz. He’s the creator of the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra at Lincoln Center and a Grammy-Award winning jazz pianist who is also an outstanding educator.

The intensive is a combination of classroom learning about the history and culture of Latin jazz, and an opportunity to develop performance skills in small and large ensembles. This intensive is designed for experienced high school and college musicians. However, new/novice musicians can participate as well in a specially designed and supported hand percussion track. I have to say that the opportunity to work with an artist like Arturo O’Farrill is something that students will never forget.

UVM has a fantastic dance program, and contemporary dance and choreography is the focus of the Dance Performance Workshop offered for the first time this summer. Students will work with two UVM dance faculty members on technique, improvisation, composition, history, and contemporary performance. The workshop is perfect for students who want to continue their dance studies in the summer and learn about UVM’s dance program. There will be a performance of student work at the end of the session, and all the Summer Academy students will be invited and parents/family/friends are welcome as well.

High school theater students are also welcome this summer at Summer Academy for The Art of Performance: Acting and Improv. Led by UVM Theater department faculty member Melissa Lourie and Essex High School drama teacher and professional actress Susan Palmer, the theatre program emphasizes improvisation for the stage and acting technique. Students will form a trusting and risk-taking team and work on developing their range as stage performers in UVM’s beautiful Royall Tyler Theater. This program also will culminate with a performance of monologues and one-act plays.

Our Introduction to Creative Writing is part of Summer Academy’s arts-related offerings as well. Imagine yourself on the beautiful UVM green in a circle of peers working with the wonderful faculty member Angela Patton – a poet, originally from Ireland, who is one of the UVM English Department’s most popular writing instructors.

As someone who is passionate about the arts, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet so many curious, intelligent, open, and fulfilled people. One of the best parts of my job is to be immersed with like-minded students and inspiring faculty to make music, dance, create art, or write. If you love the arts, we hope to see you at Summer Academy!

For more information about UVM Summer Academy, visit

Natalie Neuert UVM

Natalie Neuert is the director of the UVM Lane Series and a program developer for UVM Continuing and Distance Education.