Valley Voices

CSU’s Summer Arts, a ‘hidden gem’ of a program, returns to Fresno State

Dance students perform in the Summer Arts program at Fresno State.
Dance students perform in the Summer Arts program at Fresno State. Fresno State University

During the sun-soaked months of summer, a hidden gem lies in the heart of Fresno and it shines brightly on the Fresno State campus. That gem is Summer Arts: a national and international program of the California State University system, which serves not only students from California but also those from across the nation and abroad.

Truly a “feast of the arts,” it provides opportunities to experience both, familiar and unfamiliar disciplines in life-changing goals. The program encourages appreciation of the arts while promoting diversity in expression and personal development through actual performance and exhibition.

In 2009, my son, Michael, took a Summer Arts course titled, “New Frontiers in Digital Music and Medium” while studying as a music major at Fresno State. One of the course instructors was Garry Schyman, an American film, television, and video game music composer and instructor at the University of Southern California. Students were given assignments, including scoring short movie trailers using digital techniques, which were presented at a student showcase at the conclusion of the course. Having enjoyed the experience so much, Michael took another Summer Arts course the following summer titled, “String and Piano Intensive” in which he studied with Antoinette Perry, a piano faculty member at USC. This course was designed to provide applied lessons, master classes, and collaborative experiences to pianists and string players, giving all participants an opportunity to present their work in a student showcase.

Fast forward to 2014. After receiving his bachelor’s in piano performance at Fresno State and master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music in New York, Michael began his doctoral studies at USC. Through his Summer Arts experiences with staff and instructors, he again studied with Garry Schyman and composed, performed and produced the entire soundtrack for the video game, “The Fidelio Incident” (released in 2017). The music received critical acclaim in the gaming press as one of the most outstanding features of the game. Michael continued his piano studies with Antoinette Perry at USC, earning his doctorate degree in piano performance in 2018 under her tutelage. His degree Included minor fields of study in music theory, composition and scoring for visual media.

Today Michael says that “the Summer Arts workshops I participated in were invaluable experiences that have had a lasting impact on my educational and professional development. The skills I acquired and connections I made continue to enrich my life and career. The music world is very small, so as students, it is extremely important to have these opportunities to network with colleagues and established professionals. You never know how those connections will play out in the long run, but knowing people is a valuable asset.”

Summer Arts began in 1985 in Kirkwood, as the CSU faculty and administrators wanted to find ways to supplement the arts programs within the CSU system. The first course was a dance workshop on the CSU Long Beach campus. The following year, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo hosted the program and additional classes were added. Fresno State became home to the program from 1999-2011 under the directorship of Jim Spalding. Spalding worked for Summer Arts for 24 years, serving as director for 13 of those years. From 2012-16, CSU Monterey Bay hosted the program before its return to the CSU Fresno campus in 2017. It remains in Fresno through the summer of 2021.

Rachel Nardo has been program director since 2012 and Joanne Sharp is the assistant director. Both are on staff at CSU Long Beach.

All Summer Arts courses are available for 3-6 units of transferable college credit and open to anyone from the age of 16 to senior citizens. Applications to the program are being accepted now. Scholarships are available. For more information or to enroll, visit the CSU Summer Arts website at or call (562) 951-4060.

Clarice Krikorian is a retired registered nurse who lives in Fredsno. She is a member of the Arts and Humanities Advisory Board at Fresno State and Summer Arts Community Board. She can be contacted at