Frequently Asked Questions

Who can attend the program and what experience is necessary? ↓

Youth and teens who have finished the 4th grade through the 12th grade are eligible to attend YMA. Choir, piano, and photography campers need to have finished the 6th grade. Creative writing students need to have finished the 7th grade. (The creative writing instructor, choir director, and piano instructor have the option to exempt a camper from the grade requirement if the student has experience in the area.) Students must be able to read music to enroll in choir or instrumental music. Students must have at least one year of ballet or jazz to enroll in dance. Please consult individual program area descriptions linked to here for further information on prerequisite skills.

How many students attend each session and how big are the classes? ↓

The capacity for each session is 150 students. The ratio of students to instructors is 8 to 1.

How long is each session and what areas of study are available? ↓

YMA offers two 2-week sessions, and students select a major area of study for each session they attend. The Session 1 areas are: orchestra, band, choir, jazz, piano, and guitar. The Session 2 areas are: dance, creative writing, theatre, musical theatre, technical theatre, digital photography, songwriting, and visual arts.

Can students study an area other than their major area? ↓

Yes. In addition to a major area of study, each camper chooses an elective on the first day of classes at each session. Each elective class runs for 45 minutes every day. Past elective offerings have included: stage band, vocal jazz ensemble, yoga, technical theatre, reed-making, soccer, ultimate frisbee, piñata-making, geocaching, improvisational theatre, and guitar in Session 1. In Session 2, electives have included: volleyball, accordion, visual arts, technical theatre, auditioning, improvisational theatre, African hand drumming, mask-making, acting for film/video, and tap or pointe (dance electives).

Where is Willamette University, and why is YMA held there? ↓

Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, is the oldest liberal arts college in the west. Located 45 miles south of Portland, it’s a beautiful campus with state-of-the-art facilities where campers have access to the tools necessary to achieve their goals. YMA has been housed at Willamette University since 1974.

What is a “residential” program, and where do the students stay? ↓

A residential program is one in which participants stay overnight rather than going home each day. At YMA, campers live on campus throughout the two weeks in Willamette University dormitories. YMA offers separate dorms for male-identified campers and female-identified students. We also provide additional housing options for transgender and non-binary campers. Each room provides two to four campers with a living area that includes a bed, desk, dresser, and closet for each student. We group students by grade level. If two students who identify as the same gender and age want to room together, they may request one another on their registration forms. (Each student must make the request, and although we cannot guarantee that every request will be met, we’ll do our best!)

We are constantly working to create an even safer and more inclusive space for everyone at camp. If gendered housing creates an uncomfortable situation for you, please contact Galen at to discuss other options. Your feedback is invaluable, and your comfort and safety are our #1 priority.

Are room and board included in tuition? ↓

Yes, YMA tuition includes room and board. Meals are served in Willamette University’s cafeteria, which sits along the Mill Stream that runs through campus. Bon Appetit provides a delicious variety of selections at each meal (including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options).

What is the YMA Leadership Training Program, and who are the CITs and counselors? ↓

Because we integrate elementary through high school students at YMA, we are sensitive to the important impact teenagers make as role models. Our leadership training program helps teenagers bring out the best in themselves, and ultimately it ensures that counselors are chosen for their personal leadership qualities as well as their proficiency in the performing and visual arts. Students who have completed the 9th grade are automatically designated as counselors-in-training (CITs). CITs each get paired with a counselor for the duration of the session. They help that counselor create a positive atmosphere and assure a successful experience for all campers. At the end of the session, YMA staff, counselors, and faculty evaluate the CITs, and those evaluations influence CITs’ candidacy for counselor positions. This carefully constructed training program teaches YMA students valuable leadership skills while providing YMA with a truly dedicated, caring group of counselors.

What is the class schedule, and what activities are offered when classes are finished? ↓

Classes begin at 8:30 AM. Each day consists of 4 hours of class in the major area of study, 45 minutes in an elective class, 30 minutes in a class we call Connections, meals, and a 40-minute rest period. We offer supervised recreational activities after classes end at 3:45 PM. These include four square, chess, board games, softball, tennis, volleyball, frisbee, badminton, and soccer. Most evenings also involve talent shows/recitals, guest artists, and other performances. (A schedule will be provided to those campers attending YMA.)

How do parents stay informed on their child’s progress? ↓

YMA offers many ways to keep you engaged with your camper’s camp experience. We have a professional photographer at camp every other day that captures thousands of photos and immediately uploads them to a password secure site for you to browse (link provided after registration). We also post on social media and send out newsletters highlighting the day. All of our performances are open to the public and parents are welcome to attend. The biggest opportunity to see your student’s progress is on Visitor’s Day which takes place on Saturday. The day will start off with a performance/exhibition of work in progress and then you can “check out” your student for the afternoon to go explore the immediate area (no trips to the coast or Mt. Hood please!). Grab some froyo, picnic in the park, do some laundry! For families that live far away and cannot attend Visitor’s Day, we have plenty of activities and snacks to keep you student entertained.

What kind of supervision is provided for the students? ↓

Each counselor is assigned four to ten students, and the counselors live in the dormitories with their students. In addition to counselor supervision, we have a YMA administrator on duty 24 hours per day. Campers do not leave the Willamette University campus unless they are on a faculty-supervised walking field trip. There are designated boundaries for the two-week duration of the program. Willamette University has a 24-hour security staff.

Is Financial Aid available, and how do we apply for it? ↓

YMA awards financial aid committee awards aid twice during the spring. Please apply early, as funds are limited. Note: If you are applying for Financial Aid, send those materials in before registering so you don't have to pay a deposit upfront.

Click here for guidelines and the Financial Aid Application.

Do we receive an acknowledgment of enrollment? ↓

Once we process your online registration application and receive the registration fee, we’ll send you an email confirmation that includes a reminder of your remaining balance. When you register online, you’ll receive an email acknowledgment of your payment through our payment system. A packet with further details about YMA will be emailed to each enrolled student in June.

Who should I contact for help with additional questions? ↓

For questions regarding camp, registration, or employment, contact Galen Cohen at or 503-281-9528 ext 1. For questions regarding financial contributions or volunteering, contact Neal Spinler at or 503-281-9528 ext 2.