Music experience: 500 students hone skills at camp

By Adam Ganucheau/NEMS Daily Journal

FULTON – More than 500 high school band students from across the country are attending the 33rd annual Itawamba Community College Summer Band Camp this week in Fulton.
The weeklong camp, which started Sunday and ends Friday, is designed to push the 503 campers to their limits in a slightly competitive setting, according to ICC band director and band camp director Brian Gillentine. The rising seventh- through 12th-grade students are mostly from high schools in Mississippi, but some traveled from Alabama, Tennessee and even Colorado.
“This camp has a lot of kids on a lot of different skill levels,” he said. “They get a chance to meet new people from different schools, so they get that perspective that lets them know how good they are at what they do, and they can see what they need to do to get better.”
Students had to apply to attend the camp, and about 80 kids were turned down due to lack of space. Campers auditioned Sunday afternoon and were placed in one of six bands, which showcase different musical, marching and technical abilities. In addition to the main six bands, campers had the option of around 20 different specialty courses to sign up for, ranging from color guard to leadership to piano.
Breakfast starts at 6:30 a.m., and students go nonstop until lights-out at 11 p.m., including about four hours a day outside, according to Gillentine. Campers stay in dorms and eat in the cafeteria, giving them the slight college experience. When they are not in class, they attend social events and have some free time to meet new friends.
“Besides getting a great musical experience, the best part of camp is getting to meet so many great new friends,” 16-year-old Amory High School student and flute player Yen Nguyen said. “This is my second year coming to this camp, so it’s been great to see people I haven’t seen in about a year.”
There are 38 area band directors that teach different courses during the week, and 76 staff members assist with the logistics of running the camp.
Gillentine, who was once a camper and a counselor at the camp, says one of the best parts of the camp is the wide range of skills that campers can improve upon.
“I want to be a band director one day, so I am getting to take cool classes that would help me out with that,” 16-year-old Kossuth High School student and French horn player Ben Shipman said.
Campers will showcase what they have learned in specialty courses at a concert Thursday night at the Fine Arts Auditorium starting at 7 p.m. On Friday, they will have a field exhibition showcasing their marching at 10 a.m. and final concerts in the Davis Event Center at 1 p.m.
adam.ganucheau@journalinc.com