By Cain Madden/NEMS Daily Journal
FULTON – More than 500 students gathered at the 31st annual Itawamba Community College Summer Band Camp this week to push their limits.
The weeklong camp is for those in middle school and high school and has brought in students from throughout the Southeast and even one from Chicago.
One of those students was Matthew Reynolds, 15, of Starkville High School. The sophomore has been playing saxophone since the fifth grade, and wants to make the Mississippi Lions All-State Band. It’s a competition marching band sponsored by Lions International made up of high school students from the state that participates in parades around the world.
“This camp will definitely help me out,” Matthew said. “I want to improve so I can try out for things like the Lions band, which will open up scholarships to pay my way through college.”
As a freshman, Matthew ranked 21st of all the saxophone players who tried out for the Lions. Unfortunately, he said, only six get in. He has plenty of time to make the band, so he said he came to camp again to learn more.
“Last year, I came because our school’s drum major wanted to come, so there was a room for me,” he said. “But that experience – it kicked my butt, and I loved every minute of it and wanted to come back.”
While the camp focuses on marching band instruments, guitar classes are also offered, as are spots for drum majors and those in the color guard, including Tori Conklin of Olive Branch High School.
“I got into color guard because I needed a P.E., but I fell in love with it,” said Tori, 16, who is now one of the captains on her school’s team. “I play the mallet and am taking classes, but my favorite part is the color guard part again because I am such a guard nerd.”
Denisha Ware and Ariel Burger are both 14 and going into the ninth grade – at separate schools, Aberdeen and South Pontotoc, respectively – but the two French horn players have been hard to separate since meeting in class this week.
“My favorite part has probably been meeting new people, and the dance we had last night that was awesome,” said Denisha, who also came last year. “It has been great this year, and I hope to come back next year.”
ICC Band Director Brian Gillentine, who attended camp when he was a student, said meeting people is an important part of the experience.
“It gives them an opportunity to meet people from different programs, and see how they work,” Gillentine said. “They will develop friendships with people they will see throughout the year, meet other people not just on the local level.”
Gillentine said the 502 students went through an application process to get in, and 800 applied. The week costs $200, and that pays for instruction, meals and a spot in the dorm room.
“It is a great opportunity to get ready for the new school year,” Gillentine said. “It was good back when I did it. It really helped me decide on going into music as a career.”
Contact Cain Madden at (662) 678-1582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.