Tuning up young musicians

June 17, 2013

By Elise Dismer ’13

When a sea of plaid shirts, straw hats and cowboy boots flooded the Dingeldine auditorium Thursday morning, no one batted an eyelash.

It was just another theme day at Bradley’s ninth annual Central Illinois Summer Band Camp, where 87 middle school students gathered for a week’s worth of musical education.

Dr. David Vroman, who’s been a director of the camp for nine years and is chair of the Department of Music at Bradley, even dresses up now and again. This year, he appeared as Doc Brown from “Back to the Future” to match this year’s overall theme: Band to the Future.

“Part of my motivation is to get students excited,” Vroman said. “I had teachers and mentors that did things for me that helped me get excited, remain in music, and do what I’m doing today.” 

Vroman said the purpose of the camp is to provide students with two things: motivation and music fundamentals.

“Who wants to do something that they’re not any good at? You don’t shoot baskets if you miss all the time: Eventually you give it up,” he said. “But if you get better at it, you’ll stay out there and practice until you can get it.”

Vroman stressed that the point of the camp goes beyond creating musicians.

“It’s about loving music, being a part of something and understanding the commitment and hard work it takes to be good at something.”

For clarinet player Andrew Peterson, from Roanoke-Benson, this was his third year returning to camp. 

“My band director thought I wasn’t being challenged enough, so he pretty much told me I was going to this camp,” Peterson said with a grin.

The 14 year old definitely found a challenge at Bradley.

“The hardest part is having to learn the music in a week,” he said. “In school band, you usually have a month, with rehearsals every other day or so. Here you have five days to learn a lot more music.”

In addition to having students learn music in a short span of time, the band program has many daily contests.

“My favorite part of the day is the long-tone contest, where you hold a note as long as you can,” said Peterson, whose best time was 51 seconds. 

Another competition favorite is Section Pride Day, where students dress up with their fellow section members and decorate their stands. Dunlap Middle School student Emma Windsor, who plays clarinet with Peterson, said their section won last year when everyone dressed in Hawaiian grass skirts, headbands and leis.

“The best part about it,” she said, “is that your section gets to keep the stand decorations that you put up for the concert at the end of the week.”

The annual concert, held this year at 7 p.m. on Friday, really wrapped up the camp for students.

“I like seeing how we come together at the end and show everybody how far we’ve come,” Windsor said. 

Vroman said that in the end, the camp is about accomplishment and that the concert gives students a goal to strive for.

“Give young people a challenge and they love it,” he said. “They’ll take it. They may complain about it but that’s what they want. They want to be successful.”