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Sizzling Sounds at Band, Orchestra Camp

Callie Long attended Franklin Middle School's Band and Orchestra Camp because her band director at Brookfield Elementary said it was the best place to further her musical talents.

And Callie, 12, a rising seventh-grader at Franklin, wasn't disappointed. "I play snare drum, but we're now learning how to play bells — and I just learned how to play a C scale," she said excitedly during the third week of camp. Callie said playing 16th notes was tough, but learning the brush technique for drums was "really cool."

SHE WAS ONE of 600 students — the largest crop ever — participating in the camp's 20th year, and she said she'd recommend it to her friends who also play musical instruments. "You make a lot of new friends and people give you lots of help," she said. "I'm going to be in a percussion ensemble at Franklin, so this is like a big practice for me."

The ever-popular camp ran June 25-July 20, and Franklin Band Director Lawrence Walker — who designed the program and runs the camp each year — said things went well, as usual.

"The music program in Fairfax County is very high-powered, with some of the very finest teachers in the country," he said. "And parents know that, once their children leave here, they're usually placed in a higher-performing group in their school."

In elementary school, students only receive music instruction once a week. So for them, the camp equals two years of music classes. "Here, they attend 17 days, four hours a day, so each day is equivalent to a whole month's music classes in school, because they have four different classes each day," explained Walker.

Students have two band or orchestra rehearsals, one sectional (i.e., all woodwinds, brass or percussion instruments) and one instrument class (i.e., all flutes). And each hour, the sections change. Besides that, said Walker, "An instrument class is a master class, equivalent to a private lesson."

The 28 instructors teach in public schools, give private lessons or play in military bands, and high-school musicians are assistant teachers who work with students needing extra help or reinforcement.

Gary Lang, for example, is a Chantilly High sophomore who plays on the drumline in the marching band, and he taught percussion sections at camp. He agreed to help out because he attended the camp for four years and knows how beneficial it is to both budding and more-experienced, young musicians.

"IT'S FUN watching the little kids get better," he said. "And this camp doesn't just teach drums, but teaches all the percussion instruments. It's good to learn them all because the students will need them eventually."

Lang's considering a career either as a musician or a music teacher. He said the camp's great for students because "most don't want to practice during the summer. But in this camp, you have fun and get a lot of practice in."

Tate Cooper, a Fairfax High senior, plays cello in the school orchestra and taught intermediate-level, cello sectionals at camp. "I thought it would be an interesting summer job and an opportunity to work with kids and get leadership practice," he said. "And it's been nice — I actually have a job doing music for four weeks."

He, too, thinks the camp's a wonderful idea because "here, these kids can do something productive. And it's a good experience they'll remember for a long time."

Franklin seventh-grader Connor Pinocci attended for the first time because he's played snare drum 1 1/2 years and wants to play percussion in school. "I've learned different rudiments of drumming, like the flam and paradiddle — different ty[es of beats — and how to put them together," he said. "The camp's a lot of fun."

Chip Fitt, a Centreville Elementary grad who'll attend Liberty Middle in the fall, came to camp to work on his percussion playing. "I've learned how to play bongos and tambourine and now know all my scales," he said. "The teachers are nice; if you don't understand something, they'll teach it to you."

Tyler Strong, 11, of Crossfield Elementary, learned how to play the timpani and enjoyed playing the suspended cymbal "because I only have to hit it slightly and it makes a loud, crashing sound."

Franklin eighth-grader Ande Highley has played violin since sixth grade and came to came because she wanted to improve her playing. "I've learned my notes better — especially my high E-string — and will be in Franklin's orchestra," she said.

ANDE RECOMMENDS the camp because "it's a great place to be. The teachers and students are great, and students can get better at their instruments and make new friends."

Kristyn Walecka, also a Franklin eighth-grader, has played clarinet a few years. She attended camp because her friends who'd gone before said it was really fun. Now, she's learned how to play rhythms and is telling others about the camp.

Rocky Run seventh-grader Stephanie Nuñez has played violin three years and came to camp because "my dad said it would be good." And she, too, was pleased. Said Stephanie: "I thought it would be kind of boring, but it's fun because of the teachers and I like the songs we've been playing."

She said her favorite new songs are "Frog in a Tree" and "Finale Symphony." And, she added, "I also like the concerts that the teachers planned for us."

Jonathan Chu, a seventh-grader at Stone, has played viola since fourth grade and attended camp for the fourth time. "You get better songs each year and get to see friends you haven't seen in awhile," he said. "You learn new, music techniques, and they also have theory classes. And if you learn more, you can do more [with your instrument]. You're not limited to the simple songs that everybody knows."

Rocky Run eighth-grader Jessica Hiemstra has played clarinet three years and attended camp for the second time. "I had a lot of fun here," she said. "I've learned that I can play higher notes than I'm used to, and I'm not afraid to try. I'm more confident in my playing now, and I play more challenging music — which will get me ready for symphonic band in eighth grade.

Sayuri Yokota, also in eighth grade at Rocky Run, has played clarinet two years and will also play in her school band in the fall. She said attending camp prepared her for that, she learned to play higher notes, as well, and "The teachers are nice."

Justin Hwang, a Rocky Run seventh-grader, chose the French horn as his instrument and says it's enjoyable because "it's unique-shaped, fun to play and I like how it sounds." He came to camp for the second summer because he had such a good time there last year.

"I learned how to play new songs and scales," said Justin, who'll also perform with his school's band. "Harmonic scales are the toughest, but chromatic scales are the most fun to learn. I'd recommend the camp because it's four weeks, you get to know your teachers well and you learn a lot."

Liberty eighth-grader Paul Kim has played cello four years and was in the camp's highest-level strings orchestra. He said the camp's "a good influence on students because you can have a chance to improve yourself and rise up. And if not, they can help you."

PLAYING TUBA during a low-brass instrument class was Franklin eighth-grader Kaylie Arntson. She said her school band director, Walker, recently switched her from trombone to tuba "because he needs a tuba for next year's symphonic band and he thinks I'm strong enough to play it. I like it a lot because of the valves — they're better than a slide." As for the camp, said Kaylie, "The music you play is exciting and the different classes help you improve your skills."

Walker said the camp's successful because "parents want their kids in an activity that not only teaches them a skill, but teaches them about life. They have to be respectful of the class leader and the skill level of the person next to them, and be able to accept constructive criticism from a teacher."

He said the best part of the camp is "the parent support, working with some of the finest educators, and school band and orchestra directors sending their kids here because it better develops their own music programs."

Walker also takes great satisfaction in seeing so many students return each year and advance from beginning band to symphonic band by their third summer. Besides that, he said, "I now have about six kids who became professional musicians — and they come from this camp — so I'm very proud."