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COVID cant stop music camp

Participants during the drumming workshop in last year's music camp. Photo by Mike Thomas.

By Amy Kenny

This year’s Yukon Summer Music Camp is BYOI—bring your own instrument. It’s one of the ways Katherine McCallum says the camp is taking precautions around COVID-19. 

“We were so close to cancelling a couple of months ago,” says McCallum, camp coordinator. “We had a board meeting and we couldn’t see any way we could make it happen, which was very upsetting for all of us. We’re deeply emotionally connected to this camp.” 

Yukon Summer Music Camp typically offers 55 classes, instructing people of all ages in everything from vocals, to guitar, to drums and music production. It’s been a staple of the Yukon summer camp scene for more than 30 years, which is why, McCallum says, when the pandemic first forced closures, the board waited on announcing a cancellation. 

“And the restrictions started lifting,” she says. “We sent the paperwork to the Chief Medical Officer of Health and they said we could go ahead.”

Classes have been cut down to 40 for the week (July 27 to 31), and must be capped at nine participants.

McCallum says things are working a bit differently. Distancing measures are in effect (so the vocal classes will feature only a singer and a pianist onstage at the Yukon Arts Centre, while additional participants are spread throughout the theatre), there can’t be any live concerts to showcase skills at camp’s end, and the choir and orchestra classes were cancelled. 

In their place though, some new classes have cropped up. They’ll be spread between the Old Firehall and YAC, with the green room acting as a makeshift camp headquarters, the dressing rooms hosting guitar and ukulele, and the studio and mainstage used for drumming and singing, respectively. 

Matthew Lien is running two very small classes out of his studio, where participants will learn to write a song together and then record a demo.

Steve Slade is leading a class called “Covid Can’t Stop the Music,” which teaches aspiring musicians to use Guitar Pro 7.5, including composition, songwriting and looping. 

On top of that, Sarah Hamilton is leading the fiddle classes, including the Bluegrass Jam. Diyet, from Burwash Landing, is teaching vocal classes. Scott Maynard is leading the bass guitar class, which sold out in 2019. There’s also a girls rock camp, led by Selina Heyligers-Hare, and a couple zoom classes. 

One of those, Musical Storytelling, is aimed at the younger demographic that was left out of programming this year (classes are 11 and up for 2020, just because there wasn’t the staff required to ensure proper distancing among the very young). There’s also an online cello class and an online vocal class. 

While adults are welcome in all classes, and McCallum says the camp usually sees attendees well into the senior years, there are a handful specifically geared to adults, such as adult rock with members of Speed Control and adult vocal masterclass with Diyet.  

Right now, there are spaces left in a number of classes, though the camp as a whole is more than 50 per cent sold out. McCallum says that’s a relief. 

“It’s been a bit of a hurricane and a bit of a whirlwind to get this done … we’re so thankful we got the response we did,” she says. “We didn’t know how the community was going to respond.” 

But, she says, the majority of people seem to have no problem with grocery shopping these days. 

“And this is more fun than grocery shopping.” 

Visit for more information about class pricing and availability.