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Former students of now-defunded NY state summer school arts program worried over its future

NYSSA has been the camp for high school students with a passion for music and performance for 50 summers.

News 12 Staff

Apr 1, 2022, 10:25 PM

Updated 834 days ago


Former students of the New York State Summer School of the Arts, known as NYSSA, are worried over the program's future after the state defunded it.
NYSSA has been the camp for high school students with a passion for music and performance for 50 summers.
It's a four-week summer program at college campuses throughout the country that offers professional training in theater, orchestra, dance, and visual arts to around 500 students a year.
Notable musicians like Michelle Branch and Josh Groban are both alumni of the program.
Brian Kittredge and Catherine Birke both attended NYSSA.
"It has been a stalwart. Just a unicorn of a program that only New York state has, for 50 years," Birke enthuses.
"That summer completely changed my life," Kittredge adds.
Those summers changed the course of their lives, as they both went on to pursue careers in music and to ultimately return to NYSSA as staff, and they aren't the only ones.
"I have seen hundreds of lives change because of this program. It goes beyond music, it goes beyond the arts because they're learning how to take care of themselves, they're learning how to appreciate the arts, they're learning about each other," Kittredge says.
But now the future of this program is a big question mark as it's been written out of the state budget for 2023. A $150,000 scholarship program has been put in its place, but Birke has questions about that.
"And the thing is, if you're a parent, all these programs cost thousands of dollars. So let's say you get a $300 scholarship now. That doesn't really help you," Birke says.
The New York State Education Department says while it will not take place this summer, they are hopeful for the future.
"We're working every day to make sure the funds are there, so next year we can continue in person and continue the scholarship programs," says Cultural Education Deputy Commissioner Mark Schaming.

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