This One Time at Band Camp…

When most people hear the phrase, “This one time at band camp…” they think of Michelle from American Pie who can’t stop talking about all of the exciting things she did and saw at camp. Many band kids have this same obsession with after coming home from camp. Once you spend a week at band camp there is no going back; your life will forever be changed. Like Michelle, you will never be able to stop talking about your experience at camp no matter how hard you try (or how much you annoy your friends and family).

There are hundreds of different band camps and band clinics opportunities over summer. Most Universities with good band programs host a camp for both junior high and high school students that has a very unique atmosphere, staff, opportunities, and events. Living in a University town, I have attended the University of Arkansas Summer Music Camp for the last four years and I love it!

The University of Arkansas Band Camp

The University of Arkansas Summer Music Camp is a one week program where students stay in the dorms with their friend, play music, take classes from professionals, enjoy concerts, and attend fun events. They offer both Jr. High and Sr. High band and orchestra camps in July.

band camp

Day One… Auditions and Placements

The first day of band camp is always the most nerve-racking. You meet your room mates, put together your room, audition, and listen to a long list of rules while you wait for the band placement results to be posted… oh and no matter what state you are from, you will CALL THOSE HOGS!! This is also the one and only day you can leave campus for lunch.. or walk to the Small Mart across the street to get all the necessary snack for the whole week. After they post the results (and you brave the crowds pushing to see the results) its off to your first band rehearsal!!

After rehearsal and dinner (don’t miss out on the free ice cream) you can do anything you want (as long as you’re on campus and you don’t break any rules) until lights out. But when your sharing a dorm room with three of your closest friends, sleeping is almost impossible (even though the next day starts bright and early).

A Day in the Life of a Band Kid

On a typical day at band camp you will go to a full band rehearsal, a masters class, an ensemble rehearsal, maybe an orchestra rehearsal, a private lesson (if you signed up for one), and last but not least, a fundamentals class. When it comes to fundamentals the best thing to remember is to bring a sweater (it gets really cold) and don’t fall asleep. In fundamentals, band directors, students, and occasionally an outside musician will come in and talk about the expectations vs reality of being a music major, careers in music, music and technology, how to audition (Check out my post on how to audition here), and they may even play in an ensemble for you.

One of my favorite experiences was in fundamentals class when our guest musician for that night’s concert flew in early and volunteered to take over one of the classes to get to meet some of us one on one before the concert. This musician was Jim Walker a jazz flutist.  Through band camp, I had the opportunity to see him play two amazing jazz concerts. During his fundamentals class, he stressed the importance of practicing scales. As a jazz player he often improvises and has to play notes in a key; learning scales is the best way to practice that. But that wasn’t his point, Jim Walker wanted to tell us how important it was to practice and keep practicing even if it isn’t fun or easy, even if you are playing the same scales over and over again. If you don’t practice the hard stuff, you will never improve.Band Those words have been a constant reminder to me every time I felt discouraged and didn’t want to practice.

Jim Walker, Flutist

The Night’s Events

After a full day of playing your instrument with a few short breaks (perfect for playing a game of cards and resting your chops), you will have a floor meeting in your dorm to talk and go over the night events. Each night you will do something different. You may go to a concert, perform with your ensemble, go to a DCI competition, or go to a fun dance.

In the past few years the guest artists for the concerts have been Jim Walker, The Ciaxa Trio, and the Axiom Brass Quintet. During the University of Arkansas Jr. High Band camp, The Arkansas Winds Community Concert Band plays for the first nights concert.(I’ve played for them twice and I’ve never played for such and excited group before) Each of these have been very unique and impressive musicians who love what they are doing. There hasn’t been a single one that I have disliked (although I wish they’d bring in a woodwind ensemble soon).

Axiom Brass Quintet

But my all time favorite part of band camp is getting to go see one of the Drum Corps International competitions in Bentonville. Each time I see a Corps play I am immediately blown away. Their sound is so strong and loud it feels like a wall of sound hits you in the chest every time they nail an entrance. But as a woodwind player, I feel very left out of the Drum Corps experience. While drum corps are very successful, I feel that they are missing that woodwind color and sound that I love.

At the end of the week, you have improved as a musician and have worked your chops up to be able to play for hours straight, but you are absolutely exhausted and have to put on a successful concert for your friends and family. I am always impressed with the way a band of good high school and even junior high students can learn a set of concert music in less than a week and put  on an exceptional concert. I have never once felt that my band had put on a mediocre concert.

At camp, I have met tons of friends and other great musicians from different states who I still keep in touch with today. Band Camp is an experience every young musician needs to have and I highly recommend the U of A summer music camp. If you’re interested in signing  up for the upcoming U of A camp click here for the info.

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