Belmont Summer Winds

Last Summer I was not satisfied with the quality of band camp I attended thus I began the search for a new camp.  I decided the best idea to narrow my search was to look for summer programs at the different colleges I was interested in. That’s when I found Belmont Summer Winds.

I had been looking into Belmont University for a while because of its reputation as a good Christian Private Liberal arts school with a music therapy program, a great clarinet professor, and its gorgeous campus. Everything was exactly as I had hoped it would be.

Belmont Summer Winds

Belmont Summer Winds is a band camp hosted at the Belmont University campus in Nashville, TN run by Belmont’s Director of Bands, Barry Kraus. During this one week session, students participate in master classes, jazz ensembles. woodwind ensembles, brass ensembles, private lessons, and Wind Ensemble rehearsals led by Belmont staff and alumni. After each full day of music, students enjoy fun activities on campus to get to know each other and have a little fun (Not that rehearsals aren’t fun but…..)

Auditions

Auditioning for Belmont’s Summer Winds Camp was actually my favorite audition I’ve ever done. Not because I played my best, but because I got to pick from my own repetition what I was going to play. The last band camp I went to required me to spend all summer learning and preparing my All Region and All State material in hopes that I would make first band. But this summer I got to play one of the solos I had been preparing in my lessons at home and with only one band total I was only competing for a chair. This was a lot less stressful and a lot more convenient as students who attended the camp came from all different states. Learning both Arkansas and Tennessee All Region Material in one summer would have been a challenge.

Master Class

The clarinet Master Class was led by Belmont’s Clarinet Professor, Dr. Daniel Lochrie (pronounced like Loch in Lochness Monster). Throughout the week, master classes were the time we got to get feed back on our playing from a professional clarinetist. Dr. Lochrie plays with  the Grammy-winning Nashville Symphony and is co-founder of The Eastwood Ensemble. Through out the week he gave us classes on the basics: tone, scales, fingering, embouchure, tonguing, articulation, voicing, hand position, sight-reading, piece preparation, and nerves. (man we got a lot done). I don’t think I’ve ever been in a more productive master class. In one week we covered everything clarinet that I can think of. Hopefully soon I can write a blog post about each of the aspects of clarinet and share some of Dr. Lochrie’s insight and teaching methods.

Private Lessons

I treated my week at camp as a Belmont crash course. Belmont was one of my top two colleges that I was considering to join next fall (more on that later) so one of my main priorities while I was there was to get some private lessons from Dr. Lochrie to get to know him better, introduce myself as an interested future student, and play for him. I think this was the best thing I did while I was at Belmont. During my lesson Dr. Lorchie and I talked about Belmont’s audition process, its scholarship opportunities, and even the idea of getting to play with Vanderbilt’s Marching Band because Belmont does not have one of its own. Most of what I learned about the school of music at Belmont including their performance, education, and therapy programs I learned during my two hours of lessons with Dr. Lochrie.

Sectionals

Sectionals are always so fun. How often do you get to play a piece with only woodwind parts during high school band? Unless you go to a school who focuses on small ensembles, this never happens. The band camp I attended last summer was very brass focused which was great…. for the brass players. But this camp had equal focus on brass, woodwinds, and percussion due to the quality of time and attention we received in our respective sectional classes everyday.

Chamber Music

I believe that the two best thing you can do for your music career is 1: take private lessons and 2: play in chamber groups. By playing one on a part in a small ensemble, you have to be responsible not only for your part, but for fitting yourself in the groups sound. At Belmont’s camp I had the opportunity to play in a woodwind quintet. I have playing in duets and trios, but I have never played in a woodwind quintet before. It was so fun to be playing music focusing on woodwinds.

Wind Ensemble

Led by Dr. Kraus, the Wind Ensemble spent two classes a day in group band rehearsals preparing music to perform in one week. My band only plays one concert a year and we get months to prepare, but one full concert with a large wind ensemble, a jazz, ensemble, woodwind quintets, brass quintets, and other instrumented ensembles is a lot to learn and prepare in one week. But we did it!!! Performing such a long, challenging program and doing it well was a huge accomplishment for everyone who participated.

Out of the two band camps I have attended, Belmont was by far my favorite. I highly recommend looking into it even if Belmont is not a school you are looking into for college. I traveled 8 hours from Arkansas to Tennessee, but one guy at camp traveled all the way from California to attend camp at Belmont . No matter where you are or who you are, look into Belmont Summer Winds Camp for next summer.

2017 All Region Clinic

Every year, hundreds of High School students spend long months, weeks, days, and hours with machines on their faces to get a chance to spend our weekend at a school sitting in a chair. This is really strange behavior for high school students. But each and every one of them are band kids. But the truth is band kids are weird. ( I can say that because I am one of them)I have been in the Region VII All Region band for the past three years, But this year has been my all time favorite. This year, I made 1st band and qualified for All State, but even if I hadn’t qualified, the clinic still would have been very memorable.

Region Band, All Region

THE CLINICIAN

This years clinician, Dr. Daniel Belongia, the Director of Bands at Arkansas Tech was a truly inspiring and intelligent. During the first hour of rehearsals I decided I could sit there and l decided I could spend all day listening to him talk about music (oh wait… that is exactly what I did) and I enjoyed every moment of it. There wasn’t a single thing Dr. Belongia said that was not profound ( I actually took notes on the back of my music while he was talking). I could write a whole post on all of the things Dr. Belongia spoke of from the Moth Fable, the importance  of having musical heroes, and the truth about dynamics.

THE MUSIC

The piece River Town Jubilee was written by Steve Danyew, a friend of Dr. Belongia who played with him in a few honors band and who went off to school for music and eventually began to compose music. This particular piece was commissioned by the Dardanelle High School Wind Ensemble in 2015. Dardanelle is located near Russellville and is right on the Arkansas River, hence the name “River Town Jubilee”.

The second piece we played, Moment, was different from anything I’ve played. The composer, Alex Shapiro, composes pieces for wind bands and many of them include electronic tracks. Shapiro lives in the San Juan Islands where her composing studio faces the shore where she gets her inspiration for both her musical compositions and her photography. Her piece Moment was composed in 2016 and is described as a “Pensive and emotional, the unusual, textural music of MOMENT offers reflection and stillness in an often frenetic world. Repeating notes and haunting, lyrical lines give musicians the opportunity to explore expression through subtlety. Evocative sounds conjure fleeting, contrasting images, as the wind band creates a seamless fabric woven from the union of their instruments, their chant-like voices, and the ghostly echoes of a wistful accompaniment soundtrack.” During our performance, I felt that the electric track was too loud and covered up the band. It was a very hard piece to play because of the constant changing of the time signature and the lack of the key. But playing with a track was a new and interesting experience.

The third piece of our concert was a unique arrangement Amazing Grace by William Himes and Luis Maldonado. This piece was unique in that it was never published. A similar arrangement of Amazing Grace was published by William Himes, but before it could be published, all of Luis Maldonado ‘s contributions had to be removed due to his untimely and unfortunate death. Playing this piece in our rehearsals was very moving at one point, Dr. Belongia had us all get up and move to another seat in the band so that we would be able to hear everyone else’s parts. As a clarinet player, my first thought was to move to the back middle of the band where the horns and trombones normally sit. This gave me the opportunity to listen closely to the horn section that sits across the band and played the same 8th notes lines that the clarinets do.  This arrangement of Amazing Grace starts with a beautiful trumpet choir playing the traditional melody and new melody takes over with the clarinet and horn entrance. The melody returns throughout the piece in small bits until the end wear it is passed around the band until it fades into nothing. Such a beautiful piece was an honor to play and a special opportunity to play a piece that has never been published.

The final piece in the program was by far my favorite. David Maslanka‘s Illumination.  Illumination is a very energetic piece published in 2013. It was commissioned for the  Horace Mann Middle School in Franklin, Massachusetts and was the first piece played in their new performing arts center. Maslanka wrote the piece to capture the light and energy of youth. Maslanka said, “composing music for young people that allows them a vibrant experience of their own creative energy. A powerful experience of this sort stays in the heart and mind as a channel for creative energy, no matter what the life path. Music shared in community brings this vital force to everyone. Illumination is an open and cheerful piece in a quick tempo, with a very direct A-B-A song form.” about his work in the program notes. This is a very accurate description of the piece as a whole and it was incredibly fun to play with the best high school band across the region.

THE CLINIC

Over the course of the two days at all region, I spent a total of 15 hours sitting down and playing my instrument. During that time, I didn’t just learn the 4 pieces in our program, but I also learned some very valuable lessons from Dr. Belongia about music and life. Before we played each piece, Dr. Belongia told us a little bit about each of the composers who had written them that gave us some background on why the piece was written and what it is about. I always love learning more about the composers whose piece’s I play is a very important aspect of being  a musician. If you don’t understand where the piece came from or what it represents, you can not make a connection with the piece or play it the way it was intended to be played.  A musician’s job is to play a composer’s piece accurately so that the audience can appreciate both the composer’s work and the musician’s playing. It is easy to forget about the composer when playing a piece of music because you are focused on your own playing, but a listener will only see the composer’s name if they read the program. This was the first clinic that I have been to that the have not jumped back and forth between the pieces. Instead, Dr. Belongia did not move on until we had completely read through them. It was very effective and made the transitions in the piece more solid and fluid rather than only playing the pieces in small bits and segments until the day of the concert.

THE SPRINGDALE ALL REGION BAND CONCERT

This years concert went smoothly, but not without imperfections. Before the concert, Dr. Belongia spoke about concerts and how important concerts and live performances of all kinds are. He compared them to lighting a match that lasts for only a short while and provides heat and beauty that can only be experienced by those who light it and those who get the chance to see it and feel its warmth. We lit our match on stage together and it seemed to burn out too quickly. But every match burns out at a different speed. With today’s technology, every piece of published music can be found and played at a push of a button, the imperfections of a live performance is what is keeping the performing arts. Each performance has their own unique style whether it be differences in tone and dynamics of musicians or the lines and costumes of a play, each is a new experience that cannot be recreated.

Performing this concert with the best of the best high school students who also endured long, frustrating hours of practice and private lessons to be there was very encouraging. Not all of us will go on to become professional musicians or composers, but no matter what we do, music has touched our lives and will never leave us. In winter, All Region Clinic brings students from school districts across the who spend the fall months on opposite sides of football fields competing together to work together as a team. Not many sports do that. One of the most profound statements Dr. Belongia made this week was that band is the only true team because it’s not about winning or losing. No single player can support the whole band, each and every member must play to their fullest potential in order for the band to be successful. This weekend we were successful and I am so very proud of my team event if we will never get the chance to join together and play again.

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.