Ellicott City: A decade of beautiful music at Centennial Lane school band camp

Ten years ago Centennial Lane Elementary School band director Frank Owens had an idea to help band students during the summer break.

"I developed the Centennial Lane Elementary School band camp to give interested students a playing opportunity over the summer. More than that, I wanted to create a rehearsal environment with high standards, but also one where students felt safe to make the mistakes that are a natural part of learning," Owens said.

The inaugural camp attracted 35 students and three counselors from two local schools. In the decade that followed, the band camp has grown in size and stature to become a summer tradition for hundreds of students.

This year, the July camp consisted of 90 students and 30 counselors from 16 schools. While most campers were between the ages of 10 and 12, the counselors ranged in age from 14 to 20 — many of whom are current or former members of the Howard County Gifted and Talented Middle School Band and Maryland All-State bands.

"As the camp grew, it attracted former campers who came back to act as counselors to the younger players. Our fabulous counselors are one of the biggest assets we have," Owens said.

The camp also boasts two additional band directors. Waverly Elementary instrumental music director Richard Lucas, who Owens calls "one of the best elementary directors I know", joined the band camp as a co-director in 2004 after enrollment doubled the second year. This summer when enrollment continued to soar, Owens recruited a third director, Stephen Dunlap, a music education degree student at Peabody Conservatory, who served as his student teacher at the school this fall.

Throughout the two-week, half-day camp, students learn in both instrument sectionals and as a member of the band that features complete instrumentation. In addition, the camp is infused with plenty of fun, including a pizza party and slip-n-slide water activity.

The last day of camp gives the students the opportunity to showcase their new skills with a concert band performance for family and friends. This year, the camp band — about 110 instruments, including a bassoon, oboe and eight horns — played an impressive variety of songs including "Activity March," "Rodeo" and a medley from "Pirates of the Caribbean."

I've had the privilege of attending the camp performances several times and it always reminds me of what Glenn Holland, the main character in the 1985 movie "Mr. Holland's Opus," said.

"Playing music is supposed to be fun. It's about heart, it's about feelings, moving people, and something beautiful."

Nick Giroux, a raising junior at Marriotts Ridge High School serving in his third year as a camp counselor, echoes my sentiments.

"The camp is special because it brings together all types of people from across the county to help the next generation of musicians achieve something great. Additionally, the directors, Mr. Owens and Mr. Lucas, are very inspiring people to learn from," he said.

For a decade, Owens has volunteered his time and talent to nurture the musical talents of hundreds of local band students. His decision to donate the camp fees to the Band and Orchestra Boosters has helped support countless student programs over the years. Also instrumental in the camp's success is long-time business sponsor Baltimore Brass Company and campsite host St. John's Episcopal Church.

Congratulations Centennial Lane band camp on its 10th anniversary. Wishing you many more.

University of Maryland Extension Howard County Master Gardeners invites the public to their Bay-Wise annual garden tour on Saturday, Sept. 8, from 1 to 4 p.m.

The tour will feature the Bay-Wise certified garden of Mary Jo Messenger at 7661 Sweet Hours Way in Columbia.

The Messenger home gardens are a wonderful example of how homeowners can use good gardening practices, such as strategically placed flower beds and native plants, to catch storm water run-off. In addition to the free garden tour, native plants will be available for sale.

For more information, contact Melissa Jacoby at jacobymelissa@hotmail.com or 301-490-4469. Or go to the Howard County Master Gardeners website at http://www.mastergardener.umd.edu and click on the "2012 Garden Tour" hyperlink.

Also in garden news, the Howard County Garden Club — the county's oldest garden club founded in 1932 — will host it's fall Flower Show, "September's Charms", on Friday, Sept. 14, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., at the Howard County Senior Center in Ellicott City.

This free event will include seasonal plants such as sunflowers, dahlias, black-eyed Susans, salvia, zinnias and asters.

For more information, contact Darlene Brotzman, the fall Flower Show co-chair, at 410-744-2695 or at rlbrotz@aol.com.

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