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Programs for Children

Music Composition Academies

The South Dakota Symphony Orchestra invites you to be part of the Music Composition Academy!  The Music Composition Academy will serve as a catalyst for community while teaching students to express their creativity and write original music.

Daily music composition lessons and activities will be part of the Music Composition Academy; with an emphasis on cultural understanding and finding human commonalities.

2024 Academy Applications Open!

Sisseton Wahpeton College:  Monday, June 17 – Friday, June 21, 2024
Black Hills State University: Monday, July 8 – Friday, July 12, 2024

Complete the following application form by Wednesday, May 15, 2024:

About the Program

The South Dakota Symphony Orchestra’s Music Composition Academies are two, week-long admission-free summer composition camps serving middle and high school students from tribal communities in western and eastern South Dakota. This is a tuition-free experience in which students work with a team of professional composer mentors to write their own music during a week-long summer camp in June or July.  In September, South Dakota Symphony Orchestra (SDSO) musicians travel to the students’ communities and perform the student compositions at their schools for their peers.

It was the success of the Lakota Music Project which led to the development of the Music Composition Academies (MCA). The MCA were founded by composer-in-residence Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate in 2017 and flourished under the leadership of composer Theodore Wiprud who succeeded Tate in 2018. The MCA were originally fueled with funding from the Bush Prize and New Music USA (both received in 2016) and now continue with support from T. Denny Sanford.

An overnight week-long MCA is held at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, SD (usually in July) and a week-long day camp is held at Sisseton Wahpeton College (usually in June). Each MCA accommodates up to 12 students who spend five days (June or July) working with a team of three composer mentors, individually and as a group. The 1:4 composer-student ratio in each location ensures each student receives individualized attention. Participating students come with a variety of music backgrounds, though most have played an instrument. By the end of the week, each student has created their own composition for either string quartet or woodwind quintet. The camps are always tuition free, with lodging and food provided, to keep the program accessible to all students. In September, when school starts, the SDSO’s Dakota String Quartet and Dakota Wind Quintet perform the students’ compositions at their schools. 

Program Highlights

Since the inception of the Music Composition Academies seven years ago, student compositions have been featured in 20 concerts across South Dakota, including venues in the Pine Ridge and Lake Traverse Reservations, Crazy Horse Memorial, the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls, and South Dakota Public Broadcasting studios in Sioux Falls and Rapid City. Performances at the students’ schools are the most impactful part of the program, and have included: Oelrichs High School, Todd County School, Little Wound School, Rapid City Central, Pine Ridge School, as well as Sisseton Middle and High School. To date, 52 students have written 65 compositions heard by over 5,000 people through performances and students sharing their stories.

Every Single Note (Documentary)

This documentary about the SDSO's Music Composition Academy program has been produced by South Dakota Public Broadcasting.