USD alive with sounds of young musicians Weeklong
summer music camp wraps up Friday By David Lias
Plain Talk Starting Monday afternoon, the 58th annual Upper Midwest Junior-Senior High School Summer Music Camp was in full stride at the Warren M. Lee Center for the Fine Arts on The University of South Dakota campus. "The students moved in Sunday afternoon at about 1 p.m., and ensembles started that day at 4 p.m. and went through the evening," said Dr. David Holdhusen, USD's director of choral activities who also simultaneously serves as director of the camp while being in charge of the senior high choir and teaching voice lessons. "Our first full day was Monday, where we had all of our classes, all of our lessons, all of the ensembles going at full bore." The camp is a six-day experience of learning and music-making open to students who will enter grades 7-12 this fall. Activities include both vocal and instrumental large ensembles, as well as a variety of classes on various music topics. Opportunities for private lessons in a specific instrument or voice also were available. The Lee Arts Center was a beehive of activity all week, with students rushing from one room to another for lessons, and the sounds of instrumental and vocal music echoing through the hallways. "There are 160 students, and 40 staff members," Holdhusen said. "These are kids mostly from the four-state area of Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska, but we do have one student from Alaska and two from Texas." A rich musical experience awaited all of the participants of the annual camp. Activities included junior high and a senior high concert bands, junior high and senior high concert choirs, a string orchestra ensemble, and piano studies. Students could also select to participate in secondary ensembles of junior high and senior high show choirs, junior high and senior high jazz bands, and chamber strings. Other activities at the camp included classes and ensembles in musicianship, percussion, jazz improvisation, world drumming, opera, composition and guitar. "We really want this to be a musical experience for the kids; an opportunity for them to try new things, to play some music, and experience being part of band, being part of a choir," Holdhusen said. "We've really don't want to make it a competitive atmosphere. It's more about the music than how good of a player you are." The main goal of the camp's organizers and instructors, he said, has been to provide a place where young people can "do music – whatever it is they want to do – play, take lessons, write music. "It can be performing in one of the ensembles, or taking part in one or more of the 20 different courses we offer during the day," Holdhusen said. "We want to give them the opportunity to do some things that, maybe at their home schools, they wouldn't have the opportunity to do." A unique feature of the camp is that students, from the very beginning, have the opportunity to choose from the wide variety of activities that are offered. "If they are a person who plays multiple instruments, or plays an instrument and sings, they can do the choir and the band and the jazz band and the show choir," Holdhusen said. "If they are singers but they aren't really interested in classical singing, they maybe would do the show choir. If they are into classical singing, they would maybe do the show choir but also would do the opera class. "They can just try all sorts of different things," Holdhusen said. "That's part of what I think makes this camp very successful for the students." Because so many activities were going on during each day of the music camp, students had little chance to get stuck in prolonged, tedious class or practice sessions. Holdhusen has been involved with camp for three years, serving as director for the last two summers. "What's unique about this camp is the students' ability, in a very short amount of time, to do as much as they do," he said. "We have people here who are in five ensembles. The fact that in one week's time, they can learn enough music to present two full concerts – that boggles my mind." The jazz bands, show choirs and small ensembles performed Thursday night in the Knutson Theatre. Friday night, the concert bands, choirs and string orchestra were scheduled to perform. Students lived in one of the university's dormitories during the week, which helps fulfill another of the camp's goals – to expose students to a campus environment. "It lets them know what it's like to be a college student," Holdhusen said. "They go to the dorm, they eat in the cafeteria, they come to the building to go to a class and they learn to keep a schedule. "They also get the opportunity to work with all of the professors in the university's department of music," he added. "We're offering 113 lessons during the week, in 19 different instruments. And our ensemble directors are working with choirs, our band directors are working with the bands, so the students not only get the campus experience, they also get to work with the professors as well." The adults who worked with the young people during the week also come away from the experience richly rewarded. "One of the great things about music and performance is you can get 60 kids in a band or a choir that have never met each other and have never seen the music," Holdhusen said, "and in one week, you can pull them together and make them a cohesive group. "It's an amazing thing, and they leave here with new friends and new musical experiences, and they take those things back to their high schools," he said.