More than 150 junior high and high school students from southeastern and eastern Missouri will close out the 45th annual Summer Music Camps at Southeast Missouri State University today with a concert at Academic Auditorium.
For the last week they have spent hours upon hours perfecting ensembles and full orchestra pieces that will be presented to family and friends this afternoon.
Friday morning the students broke into several small groups for ensemble practice.
The percussion musicians gathered their instruments at the back of the stage at Academic Auditorium while the small brass and wind instrument players went to the back of the auditorium.
Within minutes the sound of the teen-agers' voices faded behind trumpet blasts and drum beats.
"Ratta tat tat, cling, clang" burst from the front of the room as the students pounded on the drums and bashed symbols together.
The sound was met by a "Brr, toot toot," from the back of the room, starting slow and quiet and growing louder quickly, filling the room.
That was broken by the "ting, ting" of the xylophones on the stage, which sounded as light as wind chimes in a breeze.
When the students finished with their small ensembles they took a quick break and then headed into full ensemble practice.
Just sounded fun
Beth Bearce tapped her toe to the beat of the music as she played her flute.
Bearce will be a high school freshman in St. Charles, Mo., this fall. It was her first band camp.
"I just thought it sounded kind of fun," Bearce said. "It's been kind of hard because we have three long practices every day, but I've had fun meeting new people and hanging out."
The first Summer Music Camp at Southeast took place in 1957, when the university was still just a teacher's college.
Linton Luetje grew up in Jackson, Mo., and was taking classes at the college then. During the camp's first year, he was a chaperone and section leader for the high school students. Now he is the director of operations for the camps.
He said much has changed since he was first involved with the program, but the best improvements have come with instruction.
"The quality and the number of guest directors have been fantastic over the past few years," Luetje said. "You don't have a lot of college and university professors that float around doing camps during the summer, but we've been lucky to have some great high school and college professors guest direct."
This year, Dale Swisher, director of orchestra at Xavier University in Cincinnati, and Dr. Scott McBride, music chairman and director of band at the University of West Georgia, are guest directors.
The camp has two one-week sessions each year. The first week is for elementary and junior high school students, and the second is for junior high and high school students.
Monday through Friday the students spend the days practicing small ensembles and large group performances and attending master classes with specialized instruction on their particular instruments.
The students get a break for a couple of hours each afternoon to play volleyball, wander around campus or just hang out until dinner.
After dinner, the students gather together for a special activity. Wednesday night the group went to see the Cape Girardeau Municipal Band perform, Thursday night they attended a faculty concert and Friday night they had a dance in Towers Cafeteria.
A competitive business
Barry Bernhardt, director of the Summer Music Camps and bands at Southeast, said in the next couple of years they might have to add another week to the camp if enrollment keeps rising.
"The summer camp business is really competitive these days," he said. "A lot of camps like this one have folded, but our students and staff just keep coming back."
Bernhardt said enrollment dropped for a few years and leveled off. This year, 230 elementary and junior high school students participated in the camp's first week and 185 junior high and high school students participated in the second week.
Cody Henry participated in the camp for the last time this year.
The 18-year-old jazz musician graduated from Grandview High School in Hillsboro, Mo., so he won't be eligible to attend the camp as a student next year.
"Maybe I'll come back and be a chaperone," said Henry, who will enter Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville in the fall as a freshman jazz performance major. "That way I'd still get to participate in the staff concert and see all of the friends I've made."
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