Gina Scheer is a Vandoren Regional Artist. The goal of the Vandoren regional artist program is to enhance the quality of the music experience in your school. This is made possible by Vandoren and a network of woodwind professionals around the country with a passion for music education and performance.
VandorenUSA: How did you come up with this idea, and where is the camp based?
Gina Scheer: When I was a band director, my double reed students would come back from summer break raving about their experience at the Bocal Majority and Operation O.B.O.E. camp. They thought it was the coolest thing to give a concert in an ensemble made up of all bassoons or oboes. As a director, I appreciated that my double reed students had the opportunity to learn about reed making, techniques like vibrato, and most importantly, an excuse to play their instrument for a whole week over the summer.
Having heard about the double reed camp, several of the clarinet players in band started asking if there was something like that for them to participate. So, I started working on the idea for a clarinet camp. The first Lone Star Clarinet Camp was held in June of 2013 in Lewisville, Texas. The majority of the participants come from the surrounding suburbs in North Dallas.
Why did you see a need for this particular type of camp?
GS: Band camp is an essential part of the young player’s development from year-to-year, and instrument specific camps serve as a great supplement.
I once heard a clinician at TMEA talk about how important it is for our students to fall in love with playing their instrument. Band can have many fun social benefits and give them a place to make music, but it’s the instrument itself that will draw students to become lifelong musicians.
My top priority as a middle school band director was to ensure that my students would continue band in high school. Our school fed into one of the top high school band programs in the state of Texas, yet getting our students there was still a challenge. Marching band practices are early in the morning before school, band is a major time commitment, and band requires discipline and patience. Students often give in to the idea of doing something new, something easier or joining an activity that gives them more free time. Students are more likely to continue playing their instrument in high school and beyond if they have developed a connection to playing that they do not want to give up. Clarinet camp can be a place where that connection is made.
Along with band camps, Lone Star Clarinet Camp is one week during the summer that makes it easy for students to play their instrument 4+ hours each day. Students that log that kind of practice time over the summer come back to school in much better shape than their peers that have to blow dust off their keys on the first day of school.
What is the Band Director Academy and is this in conjunction with the Lone Star Clarinet Camp?
GS: Some of the most popular clinics at TMEA are those that discuss beginner clarinet pedagogy. Many of my band director friends have remarked that clarinet class is their most challenging class to teach. The Band Director Academy is a 3-day professional development opportunity that goes deeper than a 1-hour clinic.
Bocal Majority and Operation O.B.O.E. also host band director “boot camps,” which I was able to attend after my first year of teaching. It was so helpful to be able to go through the first year of teaching double reeds with one of the best bassoon teachers in the state for three whole days! I went from needing 20 minutes to assemble a bassoon (seriously) to busting out Lady Gaga hits and being an expert on “when to flick.”
I knew there would be directors out there that would appreciate the same opportunity to improve as a clarinet teacher. The Band Director Academy runs in conjunction with the Lone Star Clarinet Camp. This allows the participants to learn from several different teachers on the faculty, and even spend time learning from the guest artist.
The clarinetists of the Lone Star Clarinet Camp all get to participate in a huge Clarinet Choir during the program. What music do you play and how do you choose it?
GS: We spend the year scouring the internet, music stores and conventions for clarinet choir music that is appropriate for the ability level of our students, but unfortunately, there is not a lot out there for students with only 1 to 3 years of experience. We do use some clarinet choir pieces, but the majority of our program is taken from trio and quartet books.
Our advanced clarinet choir performed a challenging patriotic medley this summer, arranged by a friend of mine. The Mega Clarinet Choir (intermediate and advanced combined) performed a fun arrangement of “Lean On Me”. We hired a drumset player and everything. It sent everyone home with a smile.
Do you have any advice for other educators wanting to start a summer clarinet choir camp?
GS: Begin by writing down the purpose you want the camp to serve. Think of both general and specific things. Examples:
- Students will leave with questions about music that they will be eager to go find the answer to.
- Each student will improve the sound of their articulation.
- Students will gain a better understanding of how the reed, mouthpiece, ligature and clarinet all work together to produce a beautiful sound.
Next, determine what goals you should meet to help fulfill the camp’s purpose. Examples:
- Every student gets in the car after the first day of camp excited to come back the next day.
- The concert at the end of the week will be a memorable and well prepared performance.
- 35-50 students will attend the camp to ensure that we have enough students for intermediate and advanced clarinet choirs.
Be willing to invest time in the beginning to develop your vision. Once you have a successful first year, it’s easy to tweak and replicate after that.
Ask for help. I needed someone I could trust to bounce ideas off of and help build schedules, pick music, and proofread content. My good friend, a fellow clarinetist and band director, Jessica Flanagan, is the Camp Coordinator. The camp would not be possible without her. She completely ran the camp in 2014 because my son was born three weeks prior. Thanks to our preparation and planning, it went off without a hitch.
And lastly, take advantage of professional development and networking opportunities such as your state music education convention or local events at universities. Building relationships with other people in your field opens doors.