Band camps strike chord with students

Practice: Summer sessions give young musicians chance to refine skills.

July 24, 2002|By Heather Tepe | Heather Tepe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

While many young musicians packed away their instruments along with their textbooks at the end of the school year, hundreds of Howard County's youth have found that summer is a perfect time to strike up the band. Summer band camp programs are increasing in popularity and offer numerous benefits to participants.

Music teachers say the summer programs help students refine the skills they learn in school music programs, enhance techniques such as breath control and intonation and, most important, keep the kids practicing their instruments over the summer months.

For eight years, Kendall Davis, band director at Pointers Run Elementary School, and Dave Smith, band director at Clarksville Middle School, have run a summer band camp. Their program, sponsored by Music and Arts Center in Ellicott City, has had to find larger spaces every summer to accommodate increased interest. This year, their camp meets at River Hill High School.

"The first year, we started with 24 kids. It's grown to 85 kids now, and it keeps growing every year," Davis said.

For two weeks this month, July 8 to 19, children in grades four through 12 participating in Music and Arts Center's Summer Band Camp gathered for three to five hours a day to improve their skills and socialize with other young musicians.

The program offers one band for elementary school musicians, a combined band for middle and high school students and a jazz band.

The cost for the camp is $140 for the concert band and $215 if the child also participates in the jazz band. At the end of the two-week session, the children demonstrate what they have learned in a concert for family and friends.

"We try to get a quality performance out of them in 10 days," Smith said. "It's probably the only time in the course of their entire musical experience that these kids will get together, have 10 rehearsals and give a concert.

"We tell the parents that we don't consider this day care," Smith added. "It's going to be an enrichment experience. We're going to have fun, but they're going to rehearse hard and work real hard for two weeks."

Davis and Smith say that many of their campers return year after year. Campers such as Afton Becherie, 13, who is spending her third summer in the Music and Arts Center camp, plans to return next year.

"You really have to practice a lot at home and make sure everything is perfect because you're a big part in the band here," said Afton, a trumpet player.

Howard County's Department of Recreation and Parks offers numerous summer programs for young musicians, including a drum camp, a guitar camp and Howard County Band Camp.

"There are not enough fine arts programs out there. That's a gap we want to try to fill," said Jeff Williams, manager of community services for Recreation and Parks.

Howard County Band Camp is run by Robert Miller, band director at Hammond Middle School; Nick Ellis, band director at Harper's Choice Middle School; and Mike Tayman, who teaches band in Anne Arundel County. The camp runs for two weeks this month, from 9 a.m. to noon July 15 to Friday, and costs $159.

Miller also offers an extended program at no extra charge for students interested in playing jazz or learning music history and theory.

"In a school band program, you rehearse for 45 minutes a day. It takes a few days to get done what you can do in one day of band camp," Miller said. "It's nice to be able to focus on music for that period of time without having to leave when the bell rings."

For the past 11 years, Mike Blackman, band director at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School, has offered a free Drop-in Band program at the school. Current and past students are invited to stop by the school for two hours Tuesday mornings to practice new music and reinforce their skills.

The summer program allows Blackman to give each of the two dozen students personal attention and gives them a reason to practice through the summer.

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