Presbyterian Music Camp (PMC) is a week long family camp hosted every year in late August at Camp Tamarack near Bracebridge in Muskoka, Ontario. The week is spent living as a community and focusing on growing in faith, as musicians, and as a family. The camp’s connection to the Presbyterian church is the foundation for the welcoming, inclusive community that has evolved over almost five decades to include campers of many denominations and open-minded people without a faith connection, campers of every age and family affiliation, and campers who love music, from beginner to professional. One of the wonderful things about the PMC community is that most activities are intergenerational, with the exception of some special workshops and events geared toward children and teens. This diversity in age and experience enriches the community and forges inspiring connections.
The camp is organised around a different meaningful theme each year. The week begins with old friends and new greeting each other. "Getting to know you" activities are followed by a meditative opening ceremony which introduces the camp’s theme. The theme is explored through brief daily worship services (morning and evening devotions) and through workshop activities that include vocal and instrumental music as well as crafts, drama, and physical activity. There are five daily workshop periods covering a broad variety of learning opportunities, and the workshop leaders are all fellow campers! The daily schedule also includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and an afternoon "Tuck Shop". After dinner each day a unique evening program is held to build community and to just have fun together! Campers can choose to be as busy as they want or as relaxed as they need.
Workshops, meal-time music, variety night, camp concert, and impromptu gatherings provide many supportive performance opportunities for all musical levels. The only prerequisite is a love of music; no experience necessary.
Campers have a choice of bunking in a cabin with family or friends, or on their own. There are dedicated cabins for teens (boys or girls ages 13 to 18), young adults (young men or women ages 19 to 30s), and for older single men or women who are happy bunking together. There are also cabins for families, couples, and singles, and a trailer site for those who wish to bring their own accommodation.
PMC is completely volunteer run. The organising committee is made up of veteran campers who meet throughout the year to plan the next year’s camp. It handles contracts, finances, registration, advertising, dean selection, programming and staffing. The leaders for the camp week (the deans) are highly experienced PMC campers chosen by the committee. The deans (with committee support) choose and develop the year’s theme and plan devotions. Workshop leaders select music pieces and activities for teaching and performance. Many other volunteers help with devotions, tuck shop, teen mentorship, sound and lighting, etc. There is a camp first-aider who is present to assist as needed for scrapes, bruises, and other minor medical concerns. Every camper has a role in the camp experience; campers sign up for leading grace at meal times and daily sweeping in common areas, and everyone helps to keep the site litter-free.
In 1972, a small group of Presbyterian ministers, church musicians and their families got together for a week in the summer to become familiar with the newly revised Presbyterian hymn book, The Book of Praise. That was the first Presbyterian Music Camp. The camp met that year at a United Church camp on Golden Lake in the Ottawa Valley. It was so popular that it was held again the following year and every year since. By 1996, the camp had outgrown the Golden Lake site and moved to the current site at Camp Tamarack near Bracebridge, where it is hosted in the last full week of August each summer.
Camp Tamarack is located just north of Bracebridge in the heart of Muskoka. The large site boasts a beautiful private lake with a beach and docks, canoes and kayaks. Other facilities include tennis and basketball courts, soccer field and campfire pits, all in a rocky forest setting. Buildings on site include a dining hall, large and small performance/activity spaces, new bathroom facilities and private stalled showers, large cabins with bunk beds, and smaller cabins for couples and singles. Some cabins are equipped with private bathrooms, and some of the cabins are newly renovated.
Camp Tamarack hires a paid kitchen staff who provides PMC with all meals and snacks, including accommodations for particular dietary needs and allergies. They also provide a cleaning crew for the bathrooms and showers, and lifeguards to keep waterfront activities supervised and safe.
There is a hospital with 24/7 emergency services located in Bracebridge, 13 minutes away.
You can learn more about Camp Tamarack on their website.
Here are a few foundational documents that help convey what kind of community PMC is.
Certain aspects of camp, especially the selection of workshops and evening programs, are planned throughout the year. To help flesh out the picture of what PMC is, you can find information on previous PMC years here.