Leah Rankin | Staff Writer
The Chautauqua School of Music campus looks a lot different this week. As the last of the Music School Festival Orchestra students pack up their belongings and disperse to various colleges across the country, they are replaced this week by musical miniatures.
Middle school and high school instrumentalists now fill the practice rooms and concert halls with small-scale cellos, brazen trumpets and pre-teen flutists congregated around folding music stands, competing to see who can hold a note the longest.
The Chautauqua Music Camps have invaded the School of Music with more than 90 young students to participate in the Middle School Band Camp, the Jazz Camp and the Orchestra Camp for string players. The camp now is in its 13th year and always occurs during Week Eight of the festival season.
For one week, these students will have the opportunity to participate in ensembles, theory and musicianship courses and to sit in on Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra rehearsals.
The week culminates for the Jazz Camp in a concert at 2 p.m. today in Fletcher Music Hall. The Band and Orchestra camps will perform in their final free concert at noon Saturday in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall.
Peter Lindblom, assistant principal trumpet player in the CSO, is the director of the Chautauqua Music Camps. He said there are no auditions and that all students who want to learn are accepted.
“Music is a language and a lifestyle,” Lindblom said, “not something that (only) helps them get better in math.”
Both Lindblom and band director Terry Bacon noted that one of the greatest observations they have of the students in this music camp is that the kids learn just as much from one another as they do from the camp faculty. Concert programs full of music that is both fun and challenging motivate the students to work hard to pull together a performance they can be proud of.
When you’re a fourth-grade student sharing a stand with a ninth-grade student, you’re not intimidated by the music, Bacon said.
“You don’t know that it’s hard,” he said. “You just do it.”
Violinist Alexandria Ott, 13, said the thing she loves best about this camp is that she gets to “play so many different things and have new experiences.”
Cellist Alexander Davis, 13, and horn player Sarah Lindblom, 12, also love the fact that they meet so many new friends at the music camp. Everyone learns how to play in an ensemble and learns the balancing act of reading music, following the section and following the conductor at the same time.
“That feeling when you’re playing and reading music, especially when people are playing together, makes it sound good,” Sarah said.
When Alexander mentioned that he practices at least two hours every day, though, Sarah had a hard time believing it.
“The kids are working hard,” said assistant orchestra manager Katie Derrenbacher. “They want to be good.”
The students aren’t just learning music; they’re learning life lessons, said orchestra director Donna Davis. They are learning leadership, discipline and cooperation. It’s the “extra-musical” lessons that are just as valuable during a week like this, she said.
Davis said she was surprised this year at how quickly the students grasped the notes and made the pieces sound like music. When the students already have a sense of musicality, she said, she can focus on more particular aspects of playing, like articulation and dynamics.
“These days, we talk about teenagers in a disparaging way, but for us, that’s not true,” Davis said. “(Seeing these kids) gives you such a positive feeling about the future. If these kids are our future, we’re in good shape.”