The sweet sounds of music filled the halls of Franklin Middle School during the 36th annual Band and Orchestra Camp. It ran June 22-July 14, and 350 fourth- through rising 10th-graders attended.
“For elementary-school kids, one day of camp is equivalent to a month of music in school,” said camp Director Lawrence Walker. “For middle-school kids, their time here is equal to what they’d get in a year of music classes at school.”
That’s because for four hours each day band students had two rehearsals, one sectional class – such as woodwinds, brass, percussion, or strings – and one instrument class. Orchestra students had two daily ensemble rehearsals, sectional and instrument classes, plus music theory.
“Sectional classes work on the music that the band or orchestra director is teaching,” said Walker. “Instrument classes focus on fundamentals like scales and tone quality and are like master classes of large-group, private lessons.”
On the first day of camp, the young musicians auditioned for placement in various levels of band and orchestra, such as beginning, intermediate and advanced. Then on the last day, students displayed what they learned by performing in individual band and orchestra concerts for their family members and campmates.
Walker began this camp, more than three decades ago and has guided it ever since. He retired in 2012 after teaching 30 years in FCPS – 28 of them as Franklin’s band director. And since the Lawrence Walker Music Wing there bears his name, it’s easy to see why he’s still involved in this summer camp for budding musicians.
“It’s a wonderful experience,” he said. “It’s great to see the students grow from the start of camp to the final day and see their skill levels develop. And I have the opportunity of seeing the respect they have for each other as their talents mature. When they return to school in the fall, they’re far ahead of their music peers.”
The teachers were a mix of FCPS, Prince William and Loudoun County band and orchestra directors, private music teachers and retired military band members. And Walker said this summer’s camp ran smoothly, as always.
“The kids and parents were terrific,” he said. “The students really want to be here. Some have switched from an instrument they already play to learn a new one. But the majority come so they can challenge themselves and become better musicians, and you can hear it in their playing. They develop their skill to play more difficult material, and they just have great attitudes. And if you can conquer the attitude, you can conquer the aptitude.”
Clara Eom, a rising sixth-grader at Colin Powell Elementary, has played flute for a year and attended camp for the first time. “The flute has been my dream instrument since I was little, and I wanted to learn how to play it better,” she said. “I learned some new techniques and notes here and made some new friends.”
In her second year of playing saxophone, Greenbriar West sixth-grader Smera Jasani was also at camp for the first time. “One of my close friends came here last year and said it was really good, so I thought I’d try it,” she explained. “I also wanted to get a head start on the next year in my school band.
“I liked practicing concert pieces in cadet band,” said Smera. “And I learned lots of new techniques in tonguing, and music terms like cut time – a half note becomes a quarter note – and ritardo, meaning you slow down. I’d recommend this camp to others because it’s a really good experience and it’s fun to be around other people who want to learn.”
Aarohi Prajapati, a Greenbriar West fifth-grader, just started playing flute and came to camp because “I heard it gets you ahead on a lot of instruments. The teachers are nice, and I like how quickly you learn. I’ve enjoyed meeting the other campers, and it’s also really fun.”
Lees Corner sixth-grader Emma Lee has played trumpet for a year, and her band teacher at school plays it, too, and suggested she attend this camp. “I like the trumpet because you can press down one valve and make 20 different notes,” she said. “Camp has been fun, and I’ve especially enjoyed brass sectionals.”
Rachel Carson seventh-grader Anika Menon played trumpet at camp last year, but recently began playing clarinet because “It looked and sounded cool, and my brother played it. I like how you can play so many different high and low notes with all the keys. Clarinet is also easier to carry and has so many more keys than a trumpet that it’s really nice to learn about it.”
At camp, Anika learned “how to play my instrument and correct any mistakes. And I liked interacting with the different teachers – who all have different styles of playing their instruments and different perspectives. I’d recommend other students coming here because you can learn so many new things, meet lots of nice teachers and make new friends.”
Haven Moon, a Greenbriar West sixth-grader, just started playing the flute and loves it. “The sound is really pretty and it’s easy to carry around,” she said. “And even though I knew it was going to be hard, I thought it was the right instrument for me. At camp, I learned don’t breathe too big when playing because your head will get dizzy. I also learned the right fingering for high and low notes that I didn’t know before.”
She also enjoyed playing in concert band because, “In school, we learn by instrument families only and don’t get to play with a whole band. But here, it’s more useful because I can see how my flute sounds with all the band instruments.”
In his second year at camp, Kilmer Middle School orchestra teacher Robert Katz taught viola sectionals. “I pull out students from their orchestra rehearsals and give them more specialized instruction on their instrument,” he explained. “It’s great; all the kids like being here because it’s something extra outside of school, and they’re enthusiastic about learning. And it’s nice to get together with other music teachers from other schools.”
GMU music major Khoa Nguyen taught violin sectionals. “I enjoy being the person giving the kids this lightbulb moment when it finally clicks for them and they understand,” he said. “It shows them they can do this – music doesn’t have to be hard. It comes down to having the right teacher and process, and it makes me happy knowing I’m helping people.”
Ben Tufts, who gives private percussion lessons in Chantilly, has taught percussion sectionals at camp for 15 years now. “There’s no other camp like it,” he said. “There’s tremendous community support every year, and it’s always an incredible experience. It’s remarkable to see the growth in the students because we cram a year of instruction into 3-1/2 weeks.”
Steve Lovecchio, a music teacher at Waples Mill and London Towne elementaries, has been an FCPS band director for 18 years and is a substitute teacher in clarinet and sax at camp. “All the students are very motivated to get better, and they love their instruments as much as I love my clarinet and sax,” he said. “I teach a methods class on the nuts and bolts of each instrument – its function, mechanics and items specific to it. So kids get the time to ask questions about only those instruments because they’re not in a class with kids playing other instruments.”
Rachel Carson eighth-grader Kabir Sharma played piano for nine years, played tuba at camp and plays 17 instruments total. “Most people don’t want to play the tuba because they get teased because of the [passing gas] sound it makes,” he said. “But it’s such a beautiful instrument.
“When a tuba’s played, it’s a full sound that feels like a warm blanket covering you. It’s the lowest foundation sound of the whole band, so when you hear it, it’s exciting. I’ll be playing tuba in the Virginia Winds Academy this fall, and will fulfill my dream of playing bassoon at school.” Kabir hopes to someday become a professional musician.
Sarah Pettyjohn, a Greenbriar West sixth-grader, loves the high-pitched notes her flute makes and enjoys playing the melody in songs. At camp, she said, “The teachers are really kind, and I learned a lot from them.”
Likewise, Rachel Carson seventh-grader Qasim Ghadiali was enthusiastic about his trombone. “You can play 14 notes in each position and move the slides to get a different range of notes for each position,” he explained. “At camp, I get to see all my friends and make new ones in my instrument group. I like all the songs we play, and I’d tell beginners to come here because, in school, they don’t teach you how to play your instrument.”
Meanwhile, Franklin Middle seventh-grader Haley Duque has played euphonium – like a smaller tuba – for a year. “I got into concert band here, which I’m super happy about,” she said. “I really love band, and my entire family are musicians. My dad and mom met in marching band, and I’m musical, too.
“At camp, I learned I can play higher notes than I ever thought and learned how to take care of my instrument and play it well. And being here lets me play it more than I usually would. I’d 100 percent recommend it – you learn so much and the band directors are awesome.”