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VOL. 44 | NO. 8 | Friday, February 21, 2020

Adult summer camps offer chance to hone old, new skills

By Hollie Deese

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All levels of string players and pianists are accepted at Vanderbilt’s Blair Academy.

-- Photograph Provided

Growing up in Minnesota, Paula Trujillo had ice skates on her feet by the time she was 5. And she was good – so good she was in the Ice Capades as a showgirl for a decade.

It was a good gig – she met her husband after all – and together they have two children, one who performs and tours on skates herself.

Trujillo also met Olympic skating champion Scott Hamilton, and the two became good friends. So when he was building the Learn to Skate component of the Ford Ice Center, he asked her to come to Nashville to help him build it. She jumped at the opportunity in 2014.

Today she is the director of the Scott Hamilton Skating Academy, helping other adults find their footing through the Learn to Skate programs that include two summer camps.

“For me and Scott, it has to be fun,” she says. “And also, it is a great workout. For me, I skate every day. I have to go to boot camp or a really hard yoga class to have the same benefits that other people might get from taking a beginner Learn to Skate class, just because it’s a different set of muscles.”

“Adult skating is really booming in Nashville, and adults I believe, are the largest growing portion of the Learn to Skate programming,” says Michelle Thornbury, president of Scott Hamilton LLC. “To serve that population, we’re delighted to be book-ending our summer with adult skating camps in both May and August.”

Each camp offers different approaches for the adult skaters, a more leisurely few hours a day over the course of five days in May or a fully immersive three days in August.

“It’s a hard thing to do because adults work,” Trujillo acknowledges, so they have made the commitment to have monthly adult socials to connect when life keeps them from the ice regularly. “It’s a great opportunity for new adults to meet some of our adults that have been in the program for a while. All year it’s been picking up steam.”

This adult camp in May has typically been held in Lake Tahoe. But with half of the staff now in Nashville, Trujillo says it just made sense to bring the camp to Music City. Past camps typically have had between 60 and 80 people, though they could accommodate up to 150.

“Clearly everybody loves to come to Nashville, so we’re hoping to up that number,” Trujillo adds.

The Learn to Skate classes have about 10 to 12 adults in each class, with up to 15 coming out on Saturdays to continue to work on their skills, make friends and help each other by passing on pointers of what they’ve mastered, or seeking help getting past struggles.

“And for some it goes off the ice into them becoming friends,” Trujillo explains. “It’s a great opportunity to try something new in a really supportive environment. They’ll get on-ice classes, off-ice classes, an opportunity if they want for private lessons. And then at the very end there’s an opportunity to do some testing on Fridays. So it’s a little different than a normal camp. It just has a lot of detail and technique in every part of the sport.”

This year they will have specialized ice dancers teaching specific ice dancing tests and levels. But they also teach basic skating skills for beginners. So you could learn everything from moving forward and backward to where to be on the blade for great technique and body alignment. Anybody that is advanced they can learn to jump and spin too.

Trujillo says it is more than just making friends and improving skills though. For some it can be a life-changing experience. One woman in the program joined last year after surviving the mass shooting in Las Vegas in 2017.

“She was running for her life, and she was scared, and she decided that she was going to do things that she wanted to do what scared her because she wanted to do them, not because somebody else was in control,” Trujillo says. “She is the most timid skater, but she’s been with us since October of last year and she’s growing by leaps and bounds.

“It’s not a fast process for her, but the friendships and the support she gets from our staff and her tenacity to come back every week, even though it’s probably the hardest thing she’s ever done in her life, is really cool.”

Music for grown-ups

Pam Schneller is an amateur string musician who five years ago went to a weekend chamber music workshop to brush up her skills and have fun with other amateurs. It was so much fun she made it her mission to have a similar program at the Blair Academy at Vanderbilt. And, as senior associate dean, she knew the right people to make it happen.

“I talked with some of the faculty and they were all gung-ho to do it and so we started it,” she says. “And it just continues to grow, and I’m really excited about that. It’s just so rewarding for adults who don’t often go out and play.”

This is the fourth year, and adults will immerse themselves for four days in chamber music with other adults who love to play. All levels of string players and pianists will be accepted, and institute director Stephen Miahky will form groups according to experience and background. Music will be sent out ahead of time so participants can prepare.

“A lot of people play by themselves, but they don’t have a group to play with,” she says. “I take lessons and I practice, but I don’t perform in any kind of ensemble. And performing chamber music, it is such an interesting thing because there’s only one person on a part and you’re all weaving this fabric together to be a unified, beautiful piece of music.”

Because of that it teachers participants cooperation and teamwork and discussing options – all important skills to practice with others no matter how old we get.

“It really is a great skill builder in terms of learning how to work with others and cooperate and negotiate and work through issues,” she adds. “Plus it’s a lot of fun and people make new friends.”

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