UCLA Spotlight

The lure of UCLA's summer camps

  • By Ajay Singh
  • Published Aug 1, 2005 8:00 AM

Musical theater conservatory camp students listen to UCLA faculty and a panel of invited guests after performing a musical extravaganza.
Copyright © Tito DeVeyra/School of Theater, Film and Television

They roller-coasted in Disneyland, windsurfed at Venice Beach and splashed around all day at a water park. They also sailed in the ocean, climbed indoor rock walls and indulged in heart-pumping action playing laser tag and racing go-karts.

All those activities were just a week's fun and games for Sophie Landesmann and Hannah Freund, two preteen friends who flew from distant Austria to participate in a variety of summer camps offered by UCLA Recreation June through September.

Hundreds of high school students from across the country also attended skills-based academic programs offered by UCLA Summer Sessions and UCLA Arts Camp. Outstanding UCLA faculty taught the students everything from music and hip-hop to animation and producing television news in intensive courses lasting six days to three weeks.


Frank Agrama learns how to wield the camera during the shooting of a short digital film, "Algo Mas Grande Que La Comida (Greater Than Food)."
Copyright © Myrl Schreibman

Offering such special programs during summer has long been a campus tradition. For the first time, UCLA Summer Sessions and UCLA Arts Camp have offered students housing, dining and counseling. Students also earn college credit and enjoy access to some of the world's best faculty and facilities — "an excellent way to prepare for their academic futures," said Kathleen Micham, marketing coordinator for UCLA Summer Sessions.

Take Frank Agrama, a high school graduate who enrolled in an advanced digital filmmaking program directed by the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television in association with US Performing Arts, a California-based private group. Because he's planning to go to film school in Boston this fall, Agrama decided to "stay involved in film over the summer," he said. "I thought it would really help being on such a renowned campus."

Agrama already knew quite a lot about camera work and editing — both his father and grandfather are in the film business. What he didn't know much about was storytelling — and that's just what the program emphasized by making students pitch their ideas to instructors just as they would in a top film studio.

But professional knowledge isn't all that students take away from the camps. Many of them forge valuable friendships. "You're with your friends all the time, doing something you love, which doesn't happen at home," said Gabe de la Vega. A native of Monterey, Calif., he attended the musical theater conservatory camp, thanks to an anonymous donor through US Performing Arts, who paid his $3,800 tuition fee.

Not surprisingly, many students have remarkable experiences. One parent wrote to Micham, saying her daughter's life was changed by working with Jens Lindemann, an internationally renowned professor of trumpet in the Music Department. Another student told Myrl Schreibman, adjunct professor in the UCLA film school and producing-director of the UCLA Arts Camp, that not just his "way of looking at the world" but his very being had been transformed. "Those are the kind of stories we at UCLA really value," said Schreibman.