URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) – A unique summer camp for middle and high schoolers is back in session. Illinois Summer Youth Music (ISYM) instructors say it’s “the most exciting week of the year.”

They teach hip-hop writing, producing, performance and more to kids from in and out of state. Last year, because of the pandemic, they limited enrollment to 14 local students. Now, they’ve enrolled 27 students from several states.

“We’re back, and we’re better, right? We’re more evolved. We’re more mature in our process and in our approach, and the kids are coming to us – they’re much more serious about the craft,” U of I School of Music Assistant Clinical Professor of music and audio recording technology Lamont Holden said.

“It’s hard to grab a microphone and rap in front of 100 people. But guess what, these kids are 11, 12, 13, 14 years old, and they’re doing it within five to six days,” Master of Social Work student and hip-hop artist Jarrell Young said.

They both say they’re most looking forward to their end-of-the-week concert where students will showcase the skills they learned. The event will be free to the public at noon, Saturday, July 2, in the U of I music building auditorium at 1114 W Nevada St. in Urbana.

They said donations to the program are also encouraged, and because of “timely donations from the community,” they weren’t forced to turn any students away due to financial needs this year.