Last week I went to summer music camp at the University of Illinois. It was a blast. I enjoyed working with the kids and the conductor, hanging out at the library and the practice rooms between session (right, I'm still a nerd), and various other cool things.
For instance, did you know the cafeteria has a killer salad bar?
You know I'm in my forties, right? I had a conversation with a student in line who I recognized as belonging to the children's chorus I play for during the year. I mentioned that when I went to another summer camp as a high school student I ate a lot of pizza, and now my favorite thing was the salad bar. He said he preferred the pizza. No kidding. I told him to wait a couple of decades.
I didn't just eat salad, though. I also got addicted to a drink with kiwi strawberry in it--had some every day. And the ice cream....
well, that's a sore subject. The ice cream ran out just before I got there two days in a row. The first day, after I asked, they added more, which exploded out of the spigot. The second day....no more ice cream. Sad.
It wasn't all about the food, though. We made lots of music. Our director, Dr. Andrew McGill, chair of the voice department at the university, also has quite a bio as preparer of choruses for some major organizations around the country and has conducted the Montreal Symphony. But he also really gets the high school demographic. He was able to make a 15th century madrigal come alive for the students with his imitation of dancing sheep. He could be silly, and demanding, at will. And he has tons of energy.
Besides the main concert we were preparing for Saturday, some of the students auditioned for an informal campers-only concert in which soloists and ensembles sang. It was interesting sight-reading for some of them. Their photocopies were often missing the bottom staves of music, and in one case the key signature, meter signature, clefs, and the first two beats of each line weren't there at all! A chance to offer a primer on how to deal with an accompanist! (I'm a good guesser, but still...)
In between the rehearsals I was dealing with issues related to my car and various other domestic things, which is not at all how I remember camp as a teenager. I also noticed how much time was spent lining up at the dorm and being herded in enormous groups to the various classes. I don't really miss that part of my life.
On Saturday we gave the concert we'd been preparing for for seven days. Two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon were spent polishing seven pieces of music, and in one rush of a week all that music was sung in the Great Hall at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. (It was fun having all that great reverb on the ends of chords). My work was mostly done since 5 of the 7 pieces were unaccompanied. As usual, I got a great seat right in front of the chorus to listen.
When it was over, there were floods of emotion from the campers: it is really a great week for them. One of the campers drew a mural on the whiteboard in the room involving the names of all the pieces on the concert. It evolved as the week went along, and eventually included all of the teachers as well. I have my own little corner, playing the piano on a cloud.