Over the last 33 years, more than 50,000 young musicians have arrived on the UNCG campus during the steamy weeks of July to fine-tune their musical skills.
Cellists, oboists, trumpeters, singers, pianists and many others together spend the week playing, practicing and learning. The camp runs in two one-week sessions.
This year, some 1,858 students came to UNCG for the annual Summer Music Camp, the largest such program in the country. They came from across North Carolina and from 18 other states and four foreign countries.
It’s the largest university-sponsored summer music camp in the nation.
Students arrive Sunday — most stay overnight in campus residence halls. They are put into bands, orchestras and choral groups based on their age and experience, and they spend their week playing, learning and rehearsing. Friday evening, before they return, they deliver concerts at five separate venues across campus.
Some students also sign up for private lessons with instructors.
The School of Music, Theatre and Dance’s Dr. John Locke, a renowned music educator, leads the renowned music camp.
“My first two or three years here, I didn’t really know if I could make a success of things here,” Locke says.
Critics told him a weeklong music camp wouldn’t work; they were wrong.
That first year, 361 students paid $120 to attend. It grew rapidly. The second year, 1984, it drew 760 campers. By the fourth year more than 1,000 aspiring musicians were attending.
Part of Locke’s job is to recruit and hire some 160 instructors and counselors to run the classes and guide students. Sometimes he doesn’t have to look very far.
Lars Holmberg, a 2011 UNCG music education graduate and band teacher in Kernersville, is working this summer as a counselor. He has attended, in fact, for much of his life.
He practically grew up in the camp, starting the summer after sixth grade as a tuba player. He attended for seven years, coming here each summer from his Massachusetts home. When it was time to go to college, he picked UNCG, and majored in music education.
One of the groomsmen in his wedding was a friend he met at the UNCG music camp.
“It has definitely affected the entire course of my life,” Holmberg says.
He’s not the only one.
Dylan Swanson, an18-year-old saxophonist from Hudson, is attending this year for the seventh year in a row. When he first attended as a middle-school student, “it was actually kind of scary,” he says.
But counselors helped him and the other young campers learn to navigate the residence halls, classrooms, auditoriums and dining hall. Along the way, he made friends he never would have met otherwise.
“There are several students in this band that have been in the same band for all seven years,” he says.
After finishing his week of Summer Music Camp he’ll return to the campus in just a few weeks to begin his freshman year as a music performance major.
“We try to really sweat the details,” Locke says. “It’s a great front door to the university.”
When the campers, plus their parents and other family members, gather for the Friday evening concerts, some 3,500 people will be on campus.
Says Locke, “UNCG will be on their college choice radar.”
Story by Mark Tosczak, contributor
Photography by Martin W. Kane, UNCG University Relations