Each summer, students flock to Franklin Middle School’s Band & Orchestra Camp to fine-tune their musical skills and learn new ones. And Camp Director Lawrence Walker bases one of his philosophies for it on a simple proverb.
“If you want to run fast, run by yourself,” he said. “But if you want to run far, run together. I believe we should pass on our knowledge, help others and respect their opinions.”
Founded by Walker, the camp ran June 29-July 23 and was the 29th annual. Some 657 students attended four hours a day and received instruction from 50 teachers — school band and orchestra directors, private teachers, freelance musicians and retired military-band members.
Walker, himself, retired in 2012 after teaching 30 years in FCPS — 28 of them as Franklin’s band director. The Lawrence Walker Music Wing there now bears his name and he directs the Herndon Regional Wind Ensemble. But each summer’s band and orchestra camp is a highlight of his year.
“Four weeks here is equivalent to two years of elementary-school band,” he said. “Those students just have band once a week; and if the director’s sick, they don’t have it. For middle-schoolers, it equals a year of music instruction.”
And at camp, students get a cross section of instruction. An instrument class is like a master class — a private, group lesson focusing on fundamentals such as scales, techniques and tone quality. And a sectional class lets students work on music their director is rehearsing with their large band or orchestra at camp.
Students get specialized instruction during brass, woodwinds and percussion classes, in addition to band and orchestra rehearsals. Orchestra students take music-theory classes, too. And at the camp’s end, they all perform and show what they’ve learned.
“This year, we did something different,” added Walker. “We let kids play in some chamber ensembles of quartets and quintets — and they got to choose to participate. They played for everyone in the orchestra, and it got them involved in smaller-group associations with their instruments and let them play for their peers, which they love. They’re excited and want to do well.”
And for the fourth year, there’s also been a jazz band that met a half hour before band camp began. “They worked on some hard music and everybody loved how it sounded,” said Walker. “So when camp culminated, there were concerts for parents and friends by the band, orchestra and jazz band.”
The camp also offered Bridging the Gap, in which professional musicians from the president’s U.S. Marine Corps band performed for the students so they could hear what a professional group sounded like. Also performing was Prelude Music, a brass group headed by former Army trumpeter and former Centreville High Band Director Dave Detwiler. Said Walker: “Some of our staff members joined them, so it was wonderful for the kids to see them perform, too.”
Basically, he added, “I love people, and music has been good to me over the years and has always helped me grow, so I like reaching out to others and helping them, too. And it’s a nice feeling and rewarding to be director of a camp where a whole wing is named after you.”