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High Plains music camp fills summer with sound

7/12/2014

By ELIZABETH GOLDEN

egolden@dailynews.net

The rolling hills are alive with the sound of music once again at the 67th annual High Plains Music Camp at Fort Hays State University.

Approximately 270 students in grades six through 12 arrive today from all around Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, Nebraska and Colorado to participate in band, orchestra or choir.

"Kids come from all over because the camp has a really good reputation," said Ivalah Allen, camp director. "People really know it's a quality camp. It has a lot to do with the quality of the teachers. It's not just about learning something and going home; they learn something and actually perform it."

The week-long camp begins today with move-in, auditions, placement and rehearsals. Each student will be placed in an ensemble based on experience and skill level. The remainder of the week will be spent taking a minimum of one class during the day and performing each night.

The only change from previous years is the addition of three new classes -- explore world percussion, instrumental maintenance and yoga for musicians.

"Being a musician is a lot like being an athlete," Allen said. "You sit in these rehearsals for hours, your shoulders ache, your back aches. This class teaches students how to relax during rehearsals, and stretch before and after. You have to breath deeply and have the stamina to do things for hours on end."

The camp was founded in 1947 by band conductor Harold Palmer, who saw a lack of programs available for high school students in the state of Kansas, Allen said.

"We're still really the only one of this type within the state," Allen said. "I really like how we have some students who have only played their instruments for a year, and then we have some who have been playing for years and years."

Emily Cox, FHSU senior from Ellis, has been a camp leader for eight years.

"I couldn't imagine July without camp," she said. "I schedule my whole summer around it. My grandma taught me how to play piano really young and I love to sing, so I combined the two together and came here. I'm so passionate about music, so coming to camp is a bonus."

The camp originally began purely as a band camp, but added orchestra five years ago and added the vocal component three years ago.

Allen, a vocalist, has been involved for three years, but was brought on after the planning stages for the vocal program already had begun.

"I have been in music since as early as I can remember," she said. "I realized in late grade school it was something I couldn't live without. Music, regardless of instrument, speaks to the soul."

Jon-Luke Martin, a sophomore from Salina, is this year's orchestral librarian. This is his fifth year attending the camp.

"I wanted to do a music camp because I saw it on television and thought it would be fun," he said. "I like to sing. I wake up and sing, and shower and sing. I don't get tired of it. This is my first year as a non-student. I'm excited to be on the other end and see how it works."

In addition to nightly performances, each group will give a final performance Saturday.

"They spend the week practicing techniques and learning new skills," Allen said, "but they also grow personally. Not just by making new friends and meeting new people, but you can see by the end of the week how they have grown as a person beyond their music. It's really cool to see."

Open to the community, a concert will be held at 7 p.m. each day in Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center. For more information about the camp, call (785) 628-4226.