The TOPS mission is to cultivate an all-around appreciation for the art forms of our culture through unleashing the creative spirit of young people. By providing access to instruction in the visual and performing arts, we empower school-aged children to succeed in all areas of their lives.
Our camp serves more than 200 campers, from kindergarten through 12th grade, during a 5-8 week period in the summer, providing quality, standards-based instruction in music, creative writing, and the visual arts. The children attending the camp have fun while spending an intensive week developing and enhancing their artistic skills.
The empowering feeling of watching it all come together builds leadership skills, confidence, and critical thinking. The young performer has an opportunity for exploration or total immersion at our camp. Piano performance, creative writing, world drumming as well as other arts are offered by the camp in small classes organized by age and skill. FAU faculty and students teach in fully equipped studios and classrooms.
TOPS was launched in the summer 1994 by the former Director of Keyboard Studies at FAU, Dr. Heather Coltman, who had a heart for both children and the arts. She wanted to provide children with an opportunity for a meaningful education in the arts – among her goals was to offer classes for a variety of age levels and musical abilities, in addition to, offering music education to everyone. The camp began in the summer of 1994 with about 75 budding musicians from South Florida – third through 12th graders. The campers not only practiced their playing but also studied music history and theory. The campers also performed Friday night recitals which were open to the public, they performed both duets and solos. The appreciation courses and piano lessons were offered under the supervision of FAU’s current music students, graduate music students and faculty. For diversion students enjoyed themselves swimming at FAU’s Olympic-size pool and were taken to the art gallery at FAU’s Schmidt Center for the Performing Art to view current art exhibition.
Word spread quickly about the summer camp, and by 1995, the camp had over 120 campers, ages 6 -17 enrolled. As next summers approached, the camp continued to gain enrollment and adding more diverse range of activities – providing campers opportunities for social interaction. By 1999, programming had expanded to include instruction in creative writing and world drumming. Today, TOPS continues to expand – the camp has added, when possible, dance and art to their curriculum.
Though the original intent had never been to form a nonprofit, TOPS was designated as a 501(c) (3) organization. What began as a camp for 75 students now serves more than 200 children each summer. Children are learning the arts of piano, creative writing, jazz, drumming, chorus, painting, drawing, and more each year. More than that, they are learning the skills they need to succeed in all areas of life – skills such as self-discipline, perseverance, teamwork and imagination.
TOPS is committed to serving young children and believe participation in the arts can be the catalyst for extraordinary change. To that end, we will continue to grow our programming until we reach our vision for tomorrow, and every child has equal access to an arts-rich education.
Former Dean of the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters at Florida Atlantic University and current Provost and Senior Vice President at James Madison University in Virginia, Dr. Heather Coltman continues her commitment to enriching the lives of young children through their encounters with the arts. Through her varied performance and mentoring activities, she has illuminated the importance of music within our world and its value as a means of communication among all people. Her commitment to serving and exposing children to the arts continues at Florida Atlantic University through TOPS Piano and Creative Writing Camp.
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