Saturday, August 7, 2010

Away Or Stay?

The 2 week stretch of band camp is over and I'm home alone for the evening, so it's blog time. I want to explore the idea of away camps for marching bands. Is it worth it? How about with the economic situation? What does your group do? Here's a little article from halftime mag that I found on this very topic. I'm sure a few directors struggle with it.

I'm working with the Centerville Jazz Band and they go away to camp. However, I'd never been involved with a band that did that. Come to think of it, I can't name a band in Illinois in that does. Let's look at some quick pros and cons that I observed a couple weeks ago.

- Having university facilities(plenty of room for different groups)
- Bonding for the band(floor activities, volleyball tourney, meals together)
- Less distractions(no parents, appointments, out of band friends)

- Financial obligations($$$)
- distance from "comforts" of the band room.(extra gear or repairs)
- anxious students/parents(fear of the unknown or letting go)

Centerville Jazz Band(CJB) is not a typical program. If you haven't heard of them just do a google or youtube search. Anyone familiar with BOA knows who they are. It's really a great opportunity to tech for them so I'm soaking it up while working as hard as I can. Oh they're also featured in the documentary "From the 50 Yard Line" That being said, "results may vary"

We started our away camp on Tuesday after a day at the high school. I'm just a brass/visual tech and very new to the program so I tried to find out as much as I could from the band directors. I hope I didn't annoy them too much during our dinner breaks(speaking of bonding it's hard being the new guy). I found out that just by having the students/staff bring their own linens/towels and skipping Monday saves over $8,000.

We stayed until Friday with a staff of 2 directors, 4 techs, 5 percussion staff, 2 guard staff. We had a floor to ourselves, but doubled up rooms. The kids(around 180 of them) along with around 10 parent chaperones(2 with medical training) stayed on the floors above us.

The days were long. Rehearsals started promptly at 8AM and the day ended at 9:30PM(not that anyone went to sleep). The rehearsals were intense, focused sessions that reinforced great technique and meticulously built the opener. The students were focused and given off about 4 hours a day, including one structured hour of "attitude" sessions. Thankfully, those were in the A/C and very relaxed. Oh and the end of each night featured activities for the students they built some great relationships while the staff played volleyball under the lights outside the dorm(which was fun except that little visit from the skunk and the fact that I suck at volleyball)

The cost of camp total at Miami University in Oxford is close to $40,000. I don't know a lot of programs that have that kind of money to spend, especially in this economy. Even though this band has a long history of away camps at MU, the director told me it might not always be that way. I don't know if it's justified. I know what kids accomplished was nothing short of amazing. I wonder if they would've got as much done and bonded as much without the away camp experience.

I think if a program has the resources, it's valuable. I really wish schools/programs were more equal, but I know that's not pragmatic. Opportunities shouldn't be reserved for certain students, but we do the best with what we've got. I wouldn't be disappointed to be the Director of Bands for a program like this. Not fair, but true. So away or stay? What do you think?

1 comment:

Thomas J. West said...

The most valuable part of going away for band camp is that it builds community within the band. The summer community youth band I worked with for 10 years did 2 weeks of away camp and then toured like a drum corps for 3 weeks each summer. By the end, they were a family - much closer knit than an average school band.

Another advantage of going away is that students can't escape. They are taken out of their home environment and its distractions (jobs, siblings, etc.)

There are many liability concerns with going away for camp. Unless you have the staff, nurses, and parent volunteers to make it happen, it can be a dangerous proposition.