In 2018, cellist and composer Erin Busch founded the Young Women Composers Camp (YWCC), a summer camp at Temple University for female and nonbinary students between the ages of 14 and 19. During the two-week camp, students participate in college-level courses and masterclasses with guest composers, and they compose a musical piece for the resident ensemble.
With the pandemic, Busch modified the 2020 camp to be virtual. “The biggest change was shortening our day to last approximately 3 hours — rather than 8 — to cut back on screen time,” Busch said. “We hired individual performers for our students to compose for [instead of an ensemble], so each student wrote for a solo instrument. Finally, we added optional ‘after-hours’ events for students who wished to spend a bit more time together.”
Busch regularly writes letters of recommendation for YWCC alumni and connects them with professionals or organizations that can help them further develop as composers. Feedback from a student who attended this year’s camp captures the impact Busch has had: “[This camp] really changed how I think about composing, and how I believe in myself. I never realized how valuable it was … to know there are other girls and folks out there who are my age, and who compose! I can’t express how priceless this opportunity was to me.”
Looking ahead, Busch plans to find a new name for the camp. “Having ‘women’ in the name of our program excludes the identities of non-binary and gender non-conforming composers, and we want to actively serve them through a more inclusive organization name.”
Busch also hopes to launch a year-round composition program for local composers in Philadelphia.