Monday, June 15, 2015

Going to camp

I'm off to summer music camp this week!

I haven't been there in ages. I was in high school the last time, some fairly large number of years ago; this time I'm going to be part of the staff. I'll be accompanying the senior choir, which rehearses every day, Sunday through Saturday, and gives a concert that afternoon. It's a short camp.

When I was in high school I was part of the choir. One year we sang selections from Carmina Burana, which is a pleasantly "dirty" piece of music if you are a teenager, and full of vigor and visceral excitement. It was accompanied by two pianists, who, I presume, were students at the university. For some reason, I remember the director thanking them during a rehearsal and having us clap for them. Directors tend to appreciate their accompanists.

I had a student a few years back who absolutely loved going to camp each year. I remember it as a very enjoyable two weeks each summer for me, too, and did wonder if I was ever going to have such a great experience later in life.

well, I've moved on and while camp was awesome it wasn't the last good thing in life. But I still remember how great it was, how I was exposed to a lot of music and many ideas I knew nothing about, how I began to move out of the provincial space I had grown up in, and into the wider world, how my piano teacher for the week recommended finding someone other than my elementary school music teacher to study with, which set up (i.e., made possible) my entire collegiate education to follow, how I reveled in the freedom of being able to wander about the campus, going to the music library and listening to music that I didn't have on records while also reading the score, or take a walk through a quiet neighborhood, or participate in a pick-up soccer game just because I happened to be wandering by. There was also a pizza joint conveniently close by and plenty of ice cream.

I recall playing the "prelude to Rhosymedre" by ear on the chapel organ when nobody was around--in the wrong key, because I was replicating the band arrangement instead of Vaughan Williams's organ prelude original, of which I was unaware. I also remember seeing the score to Beethoven's Appasionata Sonata which I had learned in its entirety by ear from a CD and thinking it looked rather difficult on the page. But then, my sightreading skills at that point were awful, in part because I could play by ear so well.

In my last year I won the concerto competition and got to play with the camp orchestra on a brand new 9 foot Steinway which nearly broke off my fingers. I didn't play grand pianos that much yet anyway, and the action on this one hadn't even begun to be broken in. One of the camp councilors, a friend, told me that I made the piano jump toward the end. I got to sneak in and practice on it each evening. Or maybe I was allowed. I don't know. I've made a career out of sneaking practice on pianos in concert halls when I was walking past and they looked lonely.

I remember the joy I felt when I discovered the girl I kindof liked also happened to play the piano in the room at the very end of the hall around the corner farthest from civilization. She lived far away but we met at camp. There were a few letters afterward, but I don't know if she really liked me that much. Also, I suspect neither of us had very developed social skills, or a car.

Camp was also a lonely experience, but I was a loner, and have never really had that much in common with anybody else, which is a more dramatic realization when you are a teenager, and less interesting later. But I had space to think, and to write music, and to be influenced by more music than I got the rest of the year. And the social activities were fun, too. One year I entertained several campers and a few councilors by playing that insipid little tune that came with the Casio keyboards in the style of different composers.

It was always a little tough to go home. At the meeting yesterday for the staff the director said that this camp may change lives. I'll bet it has an major impact on many of them. It was be a blessing to be a part of that, no matter how small.

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