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Camps encourage students to begin, continue with music

Area middle and high school students had the opportunity to advance and sharpen their music skills in three different camps held at New Mexico State University.

Abby Muir rehearses on her flute. The annual Las Cruces Middle School Band Camp was held June 14-18 for students in grades 6-8. The camp was offered at New Mexico State University along with a middle school and high school orchestra camp and a middle school choir camp held the week before. Above: (Courtesy photo by Neil Swapp)

An orchestra camp, choir camp and band camp were held this month, giving students a chance to work with other area students and instructors and showcase their work with a performance for parents and faculty culminating each camp. For some students, this was their first encounter playing music.

"There's nothing like the excitement of a child learning to play an instrument; they are just off the wall excited when they get it," said Neil Swapp, director of bands at Mayfield High School.

The Middle School and High School Orchestra camp was held June 7-11. Middle school students met in the mornings, while high school students rehearsed in the afternoons. Mayfield High School Orchestra Director Kathleen Dollahon and Douglas Poff, from Vista and Picacho middle schools, led the 75 middle school and 60 high school participants, 43 of whom embarked on playing a string instrument for the first time. Chris Noel of El Paso led the high school full orchestra. This was the first year wind instruments were included in the orchestra camp. The La Katrina Quartet of NMSU was involved as well, teaching string sectionals throughout the week.

The Middle School Choir camp was held June 7-14 for sixth- through eighth-grade students. Under the direction of Las Cruces Public Schools music instructor and adjunct NMSU faculty member, Paul Hallsted and Geri Brink, 20 participants from area middle schools learned and performed selections from different genres as well as the fall 2010 audition material for All-State.

The final camp, the Las Cruces Middle School Band Camp, was held June 14-18 with 250 students from grades 6-8. The students were separated into two groups. Eighty-five first-year players met each morning while second- and third-year students met for rehearsals and sectionals. The guest clinician, Donna Schimdt, worked with the students as a whole and instrumental specialists guided students on their specific instrument. A secondary instrument and jazz improv class were offered as well. For beginning musicians who did not own an instrument, arrangements were made to rent an instrument through their schools or a local music store.

"These camps are a great collaborative effort between New Mexico State University, the Las Cruces Public Schools, and the community," Swapp said, "It is great preparation for the students and helps them consider NMSU as a place to go after high school."

"We always try to encourage music education students from NMSU to get involved," said Camp Coordinator Katie Tomicek. This year, Vanessa Tonelli, who is in her last year at NMSU, worked with the trombones at band camp and several elementary music education majors assisted in the elementary camps.

At the end of each camp, parents and friends were invited to attend a concert in which the students were able to showcase what they had learned throughout the week.