Usdan Camp for the Creative and Performing Arts
Where you can lose yourself for a summer, and find yourself for a lifetime!

Campgrounds: 185 Colonial Springs Road,
Wheatley Heights, New York, 11798
United States of America
Camp Main Office Phone Number: 1(516)643-7900

Manhattan Office: 420 East 79th Street
New York City, New York, 10021
United States of America
Phone #: 1(212)772-6060

Suffolk/Nassau Office:
92 San Juan Drive
Hauppauge, New York 11788
Phone #: 1 (516) 724-0136

Director of Admissions: Ruth Starr (call 1(516)724-0136, and ask to speak with her)
Visit for more information.
For a map of the campus, visit

(I know this sounds like a salespitch, but I loved the camp so much that I decided to node it)

Usdan is a summer day camp in Suffolk County, Long Island. Though it provides all of the activities of a usual summer camp, it also goes much farther above and beyond. The camp is cut into 150 acres of forest in the middle of Long Island. Usdan is actually more of a school than a camp. Each of the 1,700 students that study per year have a schedule that includes a chosen major and a minor that they visit daily. The average day is broken up into 5 sections: two hours for the major, one hour for lunch, an assembly of the students that features usdanites or famous performers, an hour for a minor activity, and an hour for swim class (either instructional or freestyle). The choice of classes is huge, and the quality of each one of them is outstanding.

Usdan has created a camp that is unlike any other. The natural setting (amid woodland) makes the camp feel more like a little village of huts than a 2,000 student school. Over the last 35 years, Usdan has built a community inside between the students and with the teachers. The students are presented with a different and new learning style that promotes inter-usdanite friendships, since they are together in small groups so often. Through the classes, Usdanites are presented with group activites that require getting to know classmates, and this created strong friendships and feelings of clan-like relation. Also, since students cannot return over 18, many of them become so attached to the camp that they return as counselors for the Discover kids (see bottom), or as teachers' assistants.

Each student must choose one major as their primary course of study for the summer. As majors are usually in smaller classes than the minors, students are guaranteed placement in their chosen major. The available majors for the 2003 summer season include the following:

  • Music:
    • Concert Band: (for grades 3-12) Four different bands (broken up based on musical skill) offer musicians the ability to perform in a band that takes them to a whole new level above what their school band will play. Every band has their day as stars in one of Usdan's assembly periods. Each day, students rehearse with the whole band for one hour, and then recieve specialized lessons for their instrument in a small class by world-renowned musicians.
    • Senior/Junior Jazz Ensemble: (for grades 7-12, and only by audition) Each student rehearses for three hours a day with a dedicated class; spending time on improvisation, jazz ensemble, and with the rest of the concert band. The Jazz band is intended to help fit the needs of the more talented and gifted students that work at a faster pace than the rest of the Concert band.
    • Orchestra: (for grades 3-12) The Usdan orchestra is separated into four classes based on musical skill. The orchestra is taught by world-class musicians and teachers, as well as featuring famous people as soloists. Each of the orchestra classes performs every year at one of the assemblies, as well as working with Usdan's own dance companies.
    • Chorus: (for grades 2-12) Usdan is always alive with the sound of music, and a good portion of it comes from the choral classes. The Junior chorus (for grades 2-6) is one of the most popular majors available at the camp. They rehearse and perform one full-length broadway play each summer. The Senior chorus (for grades 7-12) is a more select group; working two hours daily on advanced musical selections, as well as performing in the assemblies throughout the summer.
    • Classical Guitar: (for grades 3-12) Two hours of guitar study daily. The classes for this major are usually small, and taught by wonderful teachers. (I have taken this class- I give it two thumbs up!)
    • Classical Piano: (for grades 3-12) "A unique program of group instruction. Students are placed by ability and introduced to the joys of ensemble playing, as well as technique and repertoire study. Studios are equipped with new Yamaha professional pianos." (to quote the course guide) (Note- this class is set in a small room with a circle of pianos. It is nearly impossible to hear yourself play. Unless you have a skilled ear and can take large amounts of noise, I strongly suggest you do not take this class)

  • Art:
    • Painting: (for grades 2-12) Learn how to draw and paint from scratch using pastels, acrylics, charcoal, pencil, and other materials. This is another of Usdan's most popular classes, due to the amazing teaching staff and small class size. All of the painting teachers are renouned artists themselves, and are wonderful teachers. (I've taken this course- two thumbs up! If you can, request Peter Clive as your teacher. I had him, and loved it)
    • Cartooning: (for grades 5-12) A rather new class to the Center, but already a hit. The class consists of basic outline, black line, flip-book, and acetate illustration. The curriculum focuses on technique; from character style and motion, to expression and personality.
    • Ceramics/Pottery: (for grades 2-12) In my opinion, this is one of Usdan's best courses. The class is all about the various forms of clay; from pot building on the potter's wheel, to ceramic design and hand sculpture. A lot of time is spent around the potters wheel (each student has their own, provided by the camp) learning how to throw pots by hand. The course also works with clay sculpture and form. Works created by the students are glazed and fired in the art department's kiln. (Though students are able to glaze their own works, the firing is done by a trained professional) I have taken this class 4 times, and every year I learn new things.
    • Sculpture: (for grades 2-12) This class is a wonderful introduction to the Art department. Sculpture is a broad section of the Art world, and therefore the class covers a wide range of styles and techniques. Most of the course is based around abstract and representational forms. Both two dimensional and three dimensional art is created using wood, stone, clay, plaster, wire, and metal.
    • Jewelry and Fine Metalsmithing: (for grades 4-12) Metalsmithing is a fun class, with state-of-the-art equipment as well as skilled teachers. The class primarily works in jewelry design and creation using real metals (gold, silver, copper, etc) and precious stones. I took this class once, and had a great time.
    • Photography: (for grades 4-12) Photography is the only course offered at Usdan that alows for roaming about the campus during the allotted time for the student's major. The course covers all areas of film-based and digital photography, including enlarging, printing, mounting, use of color, and composition.
    • Television and Video Arts: (for grades 4-12) Want to be a newscaster? Or to work behind the scenes? TV video arts teaches everything required to work onscreen acting or backstage directing, filming, and post production work. The classes are held in state-of-the-art facilities, including 3 studios and 4 editing suites.
    • Computer Graphics and Web Design: (for grades 4-12) Learn the world of graphic design through various printed media and the production of web pages. Study of painting, drawing, and animation programs. Primarily, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop are used, which are two industry-standard programs for graphic design. (The only downside to this class is that they use Macintosh computers)

  • Dance: (I have never taken any of these classes, and therefore I quote the course guide)
    • Ballet: (for grades 2-12) "A study of classical technique including barre and center exercises, across the floor combinations and performance of original choreography or classical repertory." (to quote the course guide)
    • Usdan Ballet Theater: (for grades 9-12; by audition only) "Four hours daily. The study of classical technique, including barre and floor combinations, character, original, and classic choreography. For advanced dancers." (to quote the course guide)
    • Jazz and Tap: (for grades 4-12; by audition only) "Intermediate/advanced level classes. Explore contemporary dance forms from classic jazz and tap traditions. Students must have prior experience." (to quote the course guide)

  • Theater:
    • Usdan Musical Repertory Company: (for grades 9-12; by strict audition only) The highest level of acting training available at Usdan, and held to a world-class set of standards. The class is small, and emphasizes the involvement of the whole company in every part of the production.
    • Drama or Musical Theater: (for grades 7-12) Classes that teach general acting skills; speech, movement, voice, and dance. 10-12 different productions are showcased each summer, each one a Broadway classic. Every class does a different show, and the shows are rotated yearly. (In nine years of watching every production they do, I have only seen one show twice- Grease)
    • Theater Workshop: (for grades 5-6) A preparatory course for the basics of acting; suggested as a preliminary before Drama (above).
    • Junior Chorus: (See Junior Chorus above, in Music)
      For those who read carefully: There is a hidden major in here that is not published in the course guide- Technical Theater. This is a course for 2-3 kids a summer in general stagecraft. All areas of the backstage are covered- lighting, sound, curtains, stage design, props, sets, set painting, stagehands, flys, and carpentry. This is a hard class to get into, and I suggest applying before January for the next season.

  • Writing:
    • Creative Writing: The writing of stories, plays and poems. Participation in the production of Usdan's literary magazine, Painting with Words.

  • Nature, Ecology, and Design: NEW! (for grades 4-12) Usdan's magnificent forest provides the setting to study Long Island's tress, shrubs, and ground covers. Design, create and restore specialty gardens through hands-on projects.

  • Chess: Usdan's chess program is designed to meet the individual needs of the aspiring player. Multiple classes (Novice, Intermediate, and Expert) offer appropriate instruction for all. Players new to chess can learn its rules, notation, and the opening, middle, and endgame strategy. Technique is acquired as each student develops and perfects his or her own style of play. Celebrated chess masters visit Usdan as guest teachers. Each of the classes, even the novices, are taught by world-renowned grand-master ranked players.

Usdan accepts students between kindergarten and 12th grade. They are then broken up into sections based on their grade in school:

Discovery: Grades K-1
Junior: Grades 2-6
Senior: Grades 7-12

The separation of the groups is for ease of teaching (between juniors and seniors), and to provide a more specialized form of camping experience for the little tyke Discoverers. The Juniors have their major in the afternoon, and their minor in the morning. The Seniors have their major in the afternoon, and major in the morning.

After having gone to Usdan for 9 years, I have seen the crowds come and go many a time. However, there are a large number of kids that return each year again and again. Most of them say it's because Usdan is better than anywhere else!

For those who are wondering, Usdan is the last name of the founding family. It is pronounced Use(as in the verb)-dan, not "us"-dan.

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