Summer Music Festival: tapping unlimited potential

Laprade 2016

When I arrived at the Eastman School of Music as an undergraduate student, the word Meliora was printed on almost everything associated with the University—buildings, bumper stickers, and tuition bills. I didn’t know what the word meant or even how to pronounce it. I soon learned that Meliora is the University of Rochester’s motto, meaning always striving to be better. Meliora is less a word than it is a mindset, a work ethic, a way of life, a culture, and a challenge.

At Summer Music Festival (SMF), South Shore Conservatory’s wind, brass and percussion camp, the concept of always striving to be better defines our educational philosophy for the program. We strive to instill in our students a growth mindset, one in which our potential is unlimited. We challenge each student to be a better musician every time they pick up their instrument. To leave each day of Summer Music Festival a better artist and human being than when they arrived in the morning. Our goal is to develop a mindset that impacts students far beyond the 12 days of Summer Music Festival. As a faculty, we are always so inspired by the growth, transformation, and tenacity of the students that attend Summer Music Festival.

The concept of Meliora applies to more than just our teaching at Summer Music Festival. In fact, it applies to every single component of SMF. We are always thinking about how we can improve the quality of SMF and the educational experience for students. In recent years, as we approach the 50th anniversary of SMF in 2020, we have reflected on the rich history of SMF and what the future of the festival might hold.

SMF  2018 brings quite a few new initiatives and programs. I am particularly excited about our brand new SMF Teaching Academy. The Academy is a hybrid mentorship-internship program for collegiate music education majors. The program will enable a small group of college students to integrate with our immensely talented faculty and develop their musicianship and teaching skills. Speaking of talented faculty, we are very excited to welcome Zach Stern as our new saxophone faculty member. Zach is an international performing artist, committed educator, University of Michigan alum, member of the highly acclaimed Donald Sinta Saxophone Quartet, and a dear friend. I am eager for our students to work with him. Along with new programs and new faculty, comes a new source of financial aid for our students. The All-Star Band Scholarship Fund has been created to support our youngest students at SMF, some as young as elementary school. This fund is designed to increase access for student musicians from underserved and economically disadvantaged situations.

Learn about all Summer Music Festival has to offer at

Eric Laprade is Summer Music Festival’s Music Director.  He is also currently Visiting Director of Wind Ensembles at The University of Utah.


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