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A harmonious camp

Published 8:21pm Thursday, July 12, 2012

Youth vocalists from far and wide found pitch-perfect harmony during the first day of choral camp Monday.

Students from southwest Michigan and Indiana began preparing a sampling of choral music through the Dogwood Fine Arts Festival Youth Summer Choral Camp, directed by SMC Choral Activities Director Dave Carew.

The camp, in its sixth year, brings together choral students from area school systems for one week of instruction before a performance on the last night. Students invited to the camp had to either audition or receive nomination from their school’s choir instructor.

“Dave knows the school instructors, so he can take the instructor’s word on a student’s ability,” Bobbie Jo Hartline, Dogwood Festival Secretary, said.

Carew, who also serves as the Dogwood Chorale Chairman, said the camp’s inspiration came from his days as choir instructor for Dowagiac and Edwardsburg middle and high schools.

“I love working with college-level kids, but I missed working with the young folk, too,” Carew said. “It’s more a labor of love; they work really hard at camp and they’re the highlight of my summer.”

The daily rehearsals, which last from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., focus on basic musicianship, aural skills, vocal techniques, song characterization, musical theatre and vocal improvisation. Students at this year’s camp will learn seven songs, two of which are in Latin and Spanish.
“There is usually always one or two songs in a foreign language,” Edwardsburg senior Megan Hunt said.

Hunt, who has attended the camp since the beginning, said the experience is unlike any other she’s been through.
“It’s not just an elective that we go through like in school,” Hunt said. “Everyone who is here wants to be here.”
Carew agreed, saying that the students who come into the camp are hungry to learn.
“They can do quite a bit coming in,” Carew said. “But they’re also able to be pushed.”
Dimaan McGill, an incoming freshman at Dowagiac Union High School, said this is her second year attending the camp. While coming into a new atmosphere seemed intimidating at first, she said she was able to open up to other choir members.
“I’m a shy person,” McGill said. “But meeting new people here makes it easier to make friends.”
Niles freshman Zach Plummer said the camp is a great way to gain experience, too.
“I’ve always loved to sing and I love learning the new music,” Plummer said. “It’s overall a really fun experience.”
The camp, which requires a $75 registration fee, welcomed 39 vocalists this year, 22 of who received some form of scholarship for the fee. Funding sponsors for the camp include the St. Denys Foundation, The Pokagon Fund, Southwestern Michigan College, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and private, local scholarship sponsors.
The culmination of the camp will be a performance at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Dale A. Lyons Theater. The concert is free and the public is invited.

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