I’ve been coming to Presbyterian Music Camp (PMC) for 20 years. Given that I am 21 years old, you might deduce that I’ve been coming to this wonderful place for my whole life. My non-camp friends often ask, “why do you keep going back?” After all, “summer camp” tends to carry a childish connotation and, by definition, I am no longer a child. There are many reasons why I keep coming back to camp each year. I’ll just touch on one of them here.
PMC is a fantastic place to grow as a musician, regardless of your age or playing ability. It is filled with the most supportive people I’ve ever met, and for that reason it’s a safe place to try new things without fear of failure and ridicule. My years at camp have been defined by a series of instances where I threw myself into something I knew nothing about and came out with a new passion. To my memory, the first of these instances was when I joined the concert band not one month after first picking up the flute. I could barely play a scale, but for some reason my 10-year-old self decided to join an ensemble comprising mostly of skilled musicians with several years’ (if not decades) experience on their instruments. However, before I could feel overwhelmed by the piece of music set before me, I was introduced to a much more talented flutist who I later learned was a music teacher by profession. She helped me get through my first week of concert band, and I left camp that year determined to come back the following year able to hold my own in the concert band.
A couple of years later, as a teen, I joined the jazz band, where I was confronted with an equally daunting challenge: improvisation. Luckily, as with concert band, I wasn’t without guidance. Karl and Brennan, the workshop leaders, were both seemingly virtuosic in their improvisation skills and also incredibly patient as I came to understand concepts like the blues scale and the twelve-bar blues. Jazz band became a staple of my PMC experience for several years after, which made me a much more confident and creative musician. Also, I don’t know anyone else outside of music camp who has the opportunity to swap solos with professional jazz musicians, which is rad.
Of course, there’s also an abundance of music that happens outside of daily workshops- music camp is an opportunity to try out any musical ideas that have come to you during the year. In recent years, some friends and I have formed a woodwind ensemble. It’s the only time in the year that I get to play classical and baroque chamber music, and I cherish it. Me and my older sister are even able to overcome our differences and sing together sometimes. Sometimes.
My musical experiences at camp have been both incredibly unique and commonplace. They’ve been unique in the sense that there is no other place in the world where I have found such a compassionate and talented group of people who are willing to share their ideas and passion with you. They’ve been commonplace in the sense that when at camp, I see other people, young and old, Christian and atheist, sharing similar formative experiences.