Philip Glass used summer camp paycheck to pay for composition lessons

Composer Philip Glass used the money he earned working as a lifeguard at a summer camp in Baltimore in the early ’50s to pay for music composition lessons from Baltimore composer Louis Cheslock.

Glass writes in his memoir Music Without Words: A Memoir that he worked as a lifeguard the summer after his freshman year at the University of Chicago (he enrolled at the college when he was 15) and spent his entire pay – “perhaps two hundred dollars” – on the lessons.

“At Mr. Cheslock’s home, he would give me harmony exercises and counterpoint exercises, and that was my  introduction to real music training,” he writes.

Glass also writes in the book about his own summer camp experiences as a kid attending a Quaker camp in Maine.

“There were no real counselors, but there were three or four older Quaker women who looked after us and it was like a big family,” he writes. “We played tennis, we went boating, and we went to the Grange dances every Thursday night.”

Matt Ralph

Matt Ralph

I'm the editor of Summer Camp Culture and also blog at and I live in the Philadelphia area and went to camps and camp meetings growing up in Ohio, Maryland and New Jersey.

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