Can’t get enough of band camp?
The program was founded by camp co-director John Fleming in 1989. “The reason it was started was that I had helped out at an orchestra festival where adults played, and they really enjoyed playing with professionals and learning more,” Fleming says. “There wasn’t anything like this for band.”
Seventeen people attended that first year. Now, between two sessions, there are more than 150 people. “People keep coming back year after year,” Fleming says. “It’s sort of turned into something of a family reunion. It’s become kind of a cross between a musical event and a social event, a group of people who have ‘banded’ together. We have people who have been here and have probably been coming for 18 to 19 years.”
The group reads about 40 different charts in a variety of musical styles in preparation for the final concert on Friday night, which features a guest conductor. “One of the things that people find out very quickly is that we’re not an organization where you come to learn the basics,” Fleming says. “We play grade 4 to 6 music.”
Each camp session plays a completely different set of music, so people who attend both camps play 80 different pieces. The attendees represent a wide range of experience levels and ages—from 20s to 90s. “We have people that have probably played professionally to people who have picked it up very much as a hobby or to just add some joy to their lives,” Fleming says.
Auditions are typically not required “If people can’t play everything, they sit in the back of the section and they play what they can play,” Fleming says. “For percussion we carefully check out who is coming. For most of the wind instruments, you can find a niche for somebody.”
In addition to the full concert ensemble, smaller groups, such as woodwind quintets or a Dixieland band, are formed and perform at recitals on Wednesday and Thursday of the camp. “It’s a bringing together of people from all over the country who like to play concert band music,” Fleming says. “We bring them together and form a band, and we rehearse a lot of music and have small ensembles.”
The camp’s schedule is jam-packed: full rehearsal in the mornings, master classes and small ensembles in the afternoons, and another full rehearsal at night. “It’s a fairly intense week,” Fleming says. “We don’t have much down time, and we find that that’s what people want. They come to play music, so we let them play.”
For more information on the Allegheny College Adult Band Camp, click here.