The first online version of Fort Hays State University’s High Plains Music Camp is set to kick off Sunday, July 12. And that is music to the ears of young musicians who feared the long-standing event would have to wait a year to celebrate its 73rd anniversary.


Following the cancellation of this summer’s youth camps at Fort Hays State University because of COVID-19, staff with FHSU’s Department of Music and Theatre began making plans to transfer its camp online. The condensed online version will run from 1 to 3 p.m. Monday, July 13, through Friday, July 17.


In addition to a slate of classes, participants will also have times in the morning and evening for breakout chats with counselors and friends they have met in past years at camp. There will be a recital of various FHSU bands at 3:00 each day, culminating in the annual Camp Idol Talent Show at 6 p.m. Friday.


Dr. Ivalah Allen, in her ninth year as camp director, said there were lots of tears when the department learned that residence halls would be closed for the summer and that all on-campus camps were canceled.


But the disappointment didn’t last long as faculty began discussing ways to improvise and take the music to the campers this year.


Hillary Shepherd, assistant camp director, worked through the technology portion of running the camp online, with the help of Dr. Andrew Feldstein, assistant provost of teaching innovation and learning technologies.


"We’d ask Dr. Feldstein something, he’d say he would think about it, and he would come up with a solution," Allen said. "He’s been a lifesaver."


An entire family from Kingman felt that disappointment at the thought of no music camp this year but is grateful that FHSU is offering an alternative.


Amelia Yust, who attended the camp as a youngster, and her husband, Mike, have served as camp counselors for several years. Their two sons, Cody and Austin, both play the trumpet and accompany their parents to camp.


"This way, the students will still get to talk to the professors and get some instruction," Amelia Yust said. "Our boys love the camp and are already looking forward to next year."


The $100 deposit, usually nonrefundable, was returned to all those who had already registered for this year’s camp. Campers from last year were notified about the transfer to online instruction, and Allen said many have already registered.


All of the camp faculty are donating their time for class preparation and sessions and the actual teaching via Zoom. Middle school and high school faculty participating from all across the state will be joined by others from Utah, Georgia and Missouri.


The only cost to participants is $12 for a camp T-shirt if they wish to purchase one.


"I’m very grateful for the efforts by everyone to make this a great plan for a difficult situation," Allen said.


A new addition to the instructional lineup this year will be a beginning conducting class, led by Dr. Lane Weaver, former director of bands at Fort Hays State who now serves in that role at Utah State University.


Campers will be in for a treat this year with presentations by two Broadway guest artists, including Hays native Jacob Gutierrez, a Hays High School graduate. Gutierrez is a member of the ensemble in Aladdin on Broadway and has played Aladdin’s understudy. He will be featured in one of Sunday’s guest presentations that begin at 2 p.m.


One perk of online instruction this year is that students can register any time throughout the week of camp for as many or as few of classes as participants wish.


Allen, associate professor of music and theatre, said she is overwhelmed with the work the FHSU community put forth to make the 73rd annual camp a reality in some form.


"It’s amazing to me how all these people have pitched in," she said. "It’s really humbling to see these musicians giving of their time to help younger musicians."


Although the camp is free, participants still must register at www.fhsu.edu/music-and-theatre/musiccamp/ in order to receive the online codes and instructions for each particular class. The entire schedule of classes can also be found on that link.


While different than the normal residential, week-long camp, Allen looks forward to the new experience.


"I think the campers are going to learn a lot from this," Allen said, "and I think we will, too."