Youth Band Camp celebrates 25 years

By on July 11, 2012

The 25th annual Ephrata Youth Band Camp was held from June 25 through 28 at Fulton Elementary School. The camp is designed for students who have just completed grades four, five and six. The program gives them more experience in ensemble playing and large group performance, and it provides a fun activity as well.

"Most music camps are designed for high school and middle school students," said Mr. James Kimmel, director of the elementary band program and supervisor of music in the Ephrata Area School District. "I felt there was a need for a unique experience for younger students. The goals need to be carefully tailored, but with good instruction, a lot can be attained. We always need to keep in mind these students are young kids."

The band practiced from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Thursday. The time was spent in large and small group rehearsals interspersed with various activities for the students. The goal of the camp was to perform an outdoor concert at Hershey Park June 28. After the performance, students, accompanied by parent chaperones, enjoyed the amusement park for several hours and were treated to a picnic later in the day.

"Every year when we perform at Hershey Park, strangers stop me later to tell me how impressed they were with the students’ performance," said Kimmel.

During the camp, Kimmel was aided by seven assistants: Jason Zerbe worked with the percussion section; Michael Needelman helped with the clarinet section; Kirstin Myers helped with the flutes; Madison Brubaker helped with the saxophone section; Dan Clark, a fifth grade teacher at Ephrata Intermediate School, helped with the low brass section; Mitchell Sensenig, a music education major at Mansfield University, worked with the trumpet section; and Jonathan Lausch served as a junior assistant helping members of the percussion section.

"This program started out 25 years ago as an experiment," Kimmel said. "The goal was to keep students involved with their instrument through a fun summer experience. When we started, I really didn’t know how well it would work, but the program has proven to be highly successful. Parents have supported this in many ways. I never have a problem getting enough chaperones for the Hershey Park trip. In fact, I believe the parents often have as much fun as the kids, and they return to help out in subsequent years. The parents also do various jobs during the actual trip."

The band has a relatively short time to prepare a program for their performance, and instruction needs to be adeptly tailored to meet the needs of all students involved. Within three mornings of rehearsal, the band prepares a program, and the goals need to be attainable, while still comfortably stretching the students’ growth. Student levels of experience range anywhere from less than one year to that of several years. Instruction must be differentiated so that all students are successful, while still getting students to work cooperatively together.

According to Kimmel, students are introduced to the music on the first day of camp. The reason is that "sight reading is a certain skill to be learned, and there is a lot of guided instruction along the way."

Over 25 years, hundreds of Ephrata students have participated in the youth band camp.

"Expenses certainly have risen, in some cases almost tripled" said Kimmel, "and every effort has been made to keep the cost affordable for parents. When one figures what is involved, the band camp is still quite a bargain."

The camp coordinated through the Ephrata Area Summer Enrichment Program. More YOUTH BAND, page A16

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