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Grant Helps Piano Camp Reach Out to Inner-City Kids

Xavier Smith Plays the PianoCullen Hall was filled with applause and bright sounds that resonated from the Steinway Concert Grand Piano as one student bowed after playing James Bastian’s “Sledding.”

This was the scene from the 26th annual Houston Piano Day Camp held at Cullen Hall from June 23-27.

Paul Krystofiak, founder and director of the Music Preparatory School and faculty of the Music Department at the University of St. Thomas, said this is the first year for the piano camp—UST's longest-running camp—to have 40 students enrolled.

Piano CampThis year UST was granted $15,000 by the Charity Guild of Catholic Women for the Music Preparatory School. CGCW is an all-volunteer organization of women who are dedicated to “aid all children in the Houston area regardless of race or creed.” In the past 10 years alone, the group has given aproximately $3 million to children’s charities.

The grant made it possible for 92 students from the 13 Inner City Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, to attend one of the MPS’s six week-long camps tuition free. Normally, tuition and fees range from $150 to $615 per student, making the program difficult for aspiring musicians in lower income, inner-city schools.

Piano Camp harpIn addition to the increase in students, Krystofiak said he has seen an increase in students with no prior musical experience. Many of them, he said, came from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

“This grant allows us to reach out to inner-city schools to children who would otherwise not have the opportunity to enroll in a music camp,” Krystofiak said. “Many of these children are gifted. Without this opportunity, they may never have known their potential or that they were even interested in playing the piano.”

Krystofiak added that even though the grant made the camp accessible to economically disadvantaged children who were without prior musical experience, there were just as many high level students playing advanced music as there were beginners. 

Sally Shebert, a parent of one of the students, said her daughter had a positive experience in the camp.

“My daughter participated in the UST piano day camp, and we both loved it,” Shebert. “She entered with no experience, and after four days she was ready to present a brief recital piece. She learned so much and had fun.”

The week-long camp introduced students to a variety of music through group activities, composers, the basics of music theory and they practiced technique. Students also received group and individual instruction, hands-on experience with a variety of keyboard instruments. Students also watched three guest demonstrations given by a piano technician, pipe organist and harpist, as well as three demonstrations by Krystofiak on the harpsichord, clavichord and early French piano. At the end of the week, students performed in a recital and received certificates and awards at a closing ceremony.

For more information about the Music Preparatory School or the summer camps, contact Director Paul Krystofiak at 713-525-3566 or or visit

By Elaine Rivera

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