Starting summer on a high note

By Rachel Zolfo '14
June 13, 2012

During the summer, Bradley’s campus is anything but quiet.

Although most students are gone until the fall, the University is still buzzing with activities, learning and even a bit of music. The music department is hosting its eighth annual summer band camp, which attracts young musicians from Peoria and surrounding areas.

Ninety students are attending the camp this year, filling it to capacity. Camp and Bradley bands director Dr. David Vroman is pleased with the level of interest in the community.

“Many band camps around the country are having difficulty filling the seats in their summer sessions,” he said. “Our camp, however, filled up within two weeks of accepting applications.”

The camp’s popularity stems from its unique approach to teaching its students about music. Each year, the camp’s activities are driven by a central theme. This year’s theme is “2012: A Band Odyssey,” based off of the science-fiction novel “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Campers also look forward to daily activities that are outside the music curriculum — everything from “space missions” at the Markin Center to a much-anticipated visit from Skylab, the inflatable astronomy laboratory.

While these events are entertaining, the camp’s real purpose is to develop the musical talents of its participants. At the camp, students improve their musical skills by practicing with the full band, attending sectionals and listening to performances from professional musicians.

“The listening sessions help us to adjust to different kinds of music, since we hear things that we don’t usually play with the band,” said Natalie Bradshaw, 14, from Germantown Hills, Ill., a percussionist who has attended the camp for the past three years. “It helps us to get out of our comfort zones with the music that we play ourselves.”

Dr. Vroman explained that the camp aims to teach students how to set personal goals and use self-motivation to become better musicians.

“The goal of any music teacher is to show students how to become independent musicians,” he said. “They need to be able to learn through their mistakes. Many young musicians give up because they don’t know how to practice and improve on their own and this is what we aim to avoid.”

The camp accomplishes this goal by testing each student on what they call “the 5 T’s,” a curriculum that the camp staff has developed during the past eight years. Each test evaluates the student’s skill in each aspect of music: tone, technique, timing, tune and taste.

These tests are helpful in preparing for the final concert at the end of the week, but they also teach students how to improve on their own.

“The camp helped me improve to the point that I was one of the best in my school band,” said 14-year-old Bekah Johnson from Washington, Ill., a flute player who is also completing her third year at the camp.

Dr. Vroman, who helped to create the camp, is delighted with the excellent feedback that the camp receives each year. Many students express a wish that the camp would last longer.

“Not only are the students having a fun, memorable time at camp, but they are gaining knowledge and skills that will help them to become better musicians in the future,” he said.