Alyssa English-Gibbs, a rising fourth-grader at Redcliffe Elementary School, is getting the chance to play a keyboard for the first time at the Gateway summer arts enrichment program.


But that's not all the youngster is experiencing at the annual camp, which started on Wednesday.


“We're also doing guitars and drums and xylophones and a glockenspiel,” Alyssa said happily.


About 190 elementary, middle and high school students will spend several weeks at Kennedy Middle School in a program sponsored by the Aiken County School District.


Students are also participating in vocal music, dance, drama and the visual arts.


Musicians Dennis Perea of Aiken High School and Ariel Moore and Kevin Arnold of North Augusta High School were working on the song “Sing” by Ed Sheeran.


Arnold sings with the school choir, and Moore plans to join him in this song. They're in an instrumental class taught by Orion Palmer of Augusta.


“We might try to find a small ensemble, too,” Perea said.


Joe Laorenza, the retired Aiken High School band director, also retired as the Gateway director last year after more than two decades with the program.


His successor is Meredith Leopard, a Gateway instructor for about seven years and the art teacher at Hammond Hill Elementary School.


“It's very strange now not to be teaching here,” Leopard said. “But we've got a fantastic faculty, including a lot of new ones. The students love the program and are involved already.”


Middle school student Marlon Walker was among those creating paper sculptures and painting bases for them in teacher Sandra Wren's room.


Walker has studied art for a long time, “but here I get to do it over the summer, too,” he said.


Sonya Terry, a Millbrook Elementary School kindergarten teacher, is the keyboarding teacher for third through fifth grades.


She has taught piano privately for about 20 years.


“At this age, most of them don't have experience with reading music and keyboarding,” Terry said. “But over a few weeks, they'll get the basics of music and can learn some simple songs.”


Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter.