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.

Concert Etiquette: for the Performer

Nothing is more distracting to a performer than bad concert etiquette.  But for a performer, it is very important to have good etiquette on stage in order to put on a professional performance.

The Performer

If you are performing in a group, it is always best to do what your director or conductor tells you to, but if you are not given any specific guidelines on how to present your self during a performance, here are some basic guidelines:

What to Wear

Before I leave my house, I always want to make sure I am appropriately dressed.  Wearing the right clothing is important for the performer to look professional.

For Girls: a dress and a pair of comfortable and practical heels are ideal, but a nice pair of dress pants and a blouse are also acceptable. When playing with a group I try to avoid wearing flashy colors so that I do not stand out in the group. A black concert dress is always the safest route. I advise that you always be sure to wear a pair of spandex shorts under your dresses or the appropriate pair of underwear if you are wearing a  short dress. But if you are a soloist, it is perfectly acceptable to bring out that flashy elegant bright red dress in the back of your closet that you’ve always wanted to wear. You are the focus, show off your playing and your style.

For Guys: Whether performing in a group or a solo, owning several pair of nicely fitted black dress pants is necessary for any performer. But renting a tux is  not. Some groups you will play with will have a particular color of shirt (usually black or white) that they will ask you to wear in the performance along with a black suit jacket. Just be sure that you are wearing an appropriate undershirt as well. Black dress shoes and socks are also very important because most stages are set up to where the front for of the audience is almost eye level with the floor of the stage. You don’t want anyone to notice the pink hearts on your socks. If you wear a tie, please please please make sure it matches your shirt. Two different patters is not acceptable even if they are the same color.

Entering Stage

Normally your director will give you specific instructions on how you should enter the stage and get to your seat. But there are a few things a director should not have to tell you. You should not wave at any one in the audience (even if its your mom or best friend). Stay focused, follow the person in front of you and when you get to your seat, do not sit until everyone in your row is standing in front of a chair. This gives you time to make sure everyone has a chair and a stand so that you aren’t having to switch chairs around or get a stand last-minute in front of your audience. Once you’re seated (with good posture), you can noodle around on your instrument to warm up and test your reed. But when the conductor enters the stage stop all playing. If your conductor has you tune before a performance use that time to really listen to the people around you and across the band for tuning and balance and please spend that time tuning, you already had time to warm up.

During the Performance

While sitting, a good posture with a flat back and slightly lifted chin will make you look professional and helps you produce a better tone by lifting the weight off your diaphragm. Do not cross your legs or angles under your chair, but keep both feet flat on the floor. It is acceptable to tap your toe lightly  while you are playing as long as it is quiet enough that the audience members cannot hear it. But most importantly, if you make a mistake on stage, you can not let it show in your face or posture. You have to recover and keep going as if it never happened. That way you can convince your audience that you played the entire piece perfectly.

Obviously watching your conductor is the best way to have a successful performance without any tears, but it is also important to pay attention and watch your conductor at all times. At the beginning of every piece you should raise your instrument to playing position at the same time the conductor raises his arms. If you do not play at the beginning, put your horn in resting position (what ever the first chair player is doing) and bring your horn up 2 measures before you come in. Same goes for the end of each piece, do not move or lower your instrument until your conductor lowers his arms. Often times after a piece of music, your conductor will step off his podium to address the applause and even ask soloists, sections or the entire band to stand. He will do so by gesturing to you or raising his arm. Small gestures like this are easy to miss and lead to confusion when the band doesn’t all stand up at the same time. Be sure that you are sitting on the edge of your seat so that you can easily stand up on a short notice. When you stand after a performance, you need to turn and face the audience. (its okay to smile) If you are in a group that has lots of soloists like a jazz ensemble, it is acceptable to shuffle your feet quietly as a sort of congratulations to the soloist.

Concert etiquette, etiquette, performer, professional

After the Performance

Again it is very important to watch your conductor at the end of the performance so that you see his gesture to stand, face the front, and bow. Often times the will then gesture for you to return to your seat and gather your things before leaving the stage in the same way you entered. Other times, after the bow and the applause dies down, the conductor may immediately direct you to exit the stage. If this is the case, be sure you gather all of your things, you don’t want to leave a reed case or your music on stage.

I know it’s a lot to think about, but it really does pay off and give yourself a professional stage appearance that will impress your audience. Good luck with your performances!! Next week you can read all about good audience etiquette.

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.