From Camp Ondessonk to Herscher High: The Journey of Kyle Schrage
Camp Ondessonk, nestled in the heart of the Shawnee National Forest, has been a transformative haven for countless individuals, including Kyle Schrage, a former camper and counselor. Currently shaping young minds as a teacher at Herscher High School located in Northern Illinois near Kankakee, Schrage has seamlessly integrated the invaluable lessons he learned at Camp into his role as a choir director. This article explores how his experiences at Camp Ondessonk have influenced his teaching philosophy, leadership style, and the development of a vibrant choral community at Herscher High School.
Motivation and Adaptability: Schrage’s time as a Camp Ondessonk counselor taught him the essence of motivation, a skill he seamlessly translated into his high school choir director role. Drawing parallels between the success of a camp unit and a musical ensemble, he emphasizes the importance of a motivated and disciplined group. Furthermore, his years on Camp staff instilled in him the ability to adapt and remain flexible—a quality indispensable in managing classroom dynamics.
Lessons and Skills Transfer: Schrage’s love for facilitating team-building activities at Camp has become a cornerstone of his choral program. The activities, rooted in the rich tradition of Camp life, contribute to the sense of community and camaraderie among choir members. The treasure trove of knowledge accumulated at Camp Ondessonk has equipped him with diverse skills, all of which find applications in the high school setting.
Building Character and Leadership: Camp Ondessonk’s emphasis on character and leadership development seamlessly aligns with the demands of a performance ensemble. Schrage highlights the interdependence of choir members, emphasizing the discipline required for individual practice and the positive motivation that students provide one another. This communal spirit enhances the final musical product and cultivates essential life skills.
Nature and Music: The outdoors and appreciation for nature are integral components of Camp Ondessonk’s identity. Schrage incorporates these aspects into his choir program by connecting pieces of choral music to nature themes. The annual retreat, including a hike and singing hymns like “Sanctuary,” bridges the two environments, fostering a deeper connection among his students and the natural world.
Conflict Resolution and Listening: Drawing from his counseling background at Camp, Schrage employs active listening and adaptability to address challenges and conflicts within his choir. The ability to quickly assess and resolve issues, a skill honed through diverse Camp experiences, has proven instrumental in maintaining a positive and collaborative atmosphere in the classroom.
Advice for Aspiring Choir Directors: Schrage’s advice to aspiring choir directors emphasizes the importance of building relationships with students. Knowing and caring for students as individuals creates a positive and open environment, essential for both musical growth and recruitment.
As Kyle Schrage continues to guide his students through the intricacies of choral singing at Herscher High School, his formative years at Camp Ondessonk remain a guiding light. The melding of outdoor experiences, leadership skills, and a deep sense of community has created a unique and enriching choir program that produces beautiful music and shapes the character and futures of its participants. Schrage’s journey from camper to counselor to teacher stands as a testament to the enduring impact of a place like Camp Ondessonk.
Click here to learn more about Camp Ondessonk’s Outdoor Education Programs.