McDaniel Summer Music Camp a chance to grow, express selves through song

Linda Kirkpatrick, talks about the the week-long camp which is in its 33rd year this summer, and culminates in a final concert on Friday, July 20.

A mash of students from different schools all sat on the stage inside WMC Alumni Hall, instruments posed, eyes trained on conductor Jay Bocook.

Bocook would count off, offering advice about tempo and rhythm as he clicked his baton off the podium to keep time, before starting the band with one fell swoop of his arms.


The band worked to make their way through portions of a number of pieces, stopping when a note or beat was off. For one week, the students on the stage eat, breath and sleep music. And they wouldn’t have it any other way.

The students in the McDaniel Summer Music Camp range in age from rising seventh graders to rising high school seniors. For one week, students work 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day before getting an hour to swim before bed.

The weeklong camp, which is in its 33rd year this summer, culminates in a final concert on Friday, July 20. The Green band performs at 7 p.m., followed by the Gold band at 8:15 p.m. The show takes place in WMC Alumni Hall and is free and open to the public.

“It’s a very well-organized musical camp. The kids get to experience several facets of music education throughout the day,” said Bocook, an internationally recognized composer, arranger and conductor.

Bocook is the instructor for the upper level band, the Gold Band. The Green Band is for younger, less experienced musicians.

All students get to take part in the bands, music theory, sectional time and also the option to learn a new instrument or learn about jazz improvisation during the weeklong camp, Bocook said.

“Just a lot of comprehensive musical materials are available here,” he said, later adding, “it’s music all day from the moment they get up.”

For 17-year-old Erin McGrath, this summer was her fourth at the music camp. McGrath plays flute, and will be a senior at Westminster High School come September.

“I like playing more challenging music than I would get to at school and having all my friends here who are equally dedicated to music,” she said.

The camp is a good opportunity to learn about other aspects of music, like theory, and how to be more artistic in her musical style, she said.

In her four years attending the camp, McGrath said she’s grown tremendously as a flutist.

“I was in Green band my first year and then made my way up and I’m first chair flute this year,” she said.

Flutist Morgan Sutherland, 16, echoed McGrath’s sentiments on growth. Sutherland, who will be an 11th-grader at Liberty High School this year, said this summer is her fifth at the McDaniel camp.

“Experiencing somebody else’s form of conducting ... and I never play this hard of music in a band, so it’s definitely a different experience and it’s really fun,” she said.


From his perspective, Bocook said getting to see the students grow is wonderful.

Bocook has been a part of the longest-running musical camp in Maryland for 31 of its 33 years, and said even though he’s working “it’s kind of my personal vacation.”

“The final performances are always very thrilling for me,” he said.

And while growing their musicianship is a large part of the camp, for those involved, the week is about so much more.

Sutherland said music is important to her, and is a “good way to express yourself.” If she is stressed, Sutherland said she can go to her room and play, something that helps her relax.

Plus, she said, it’s great to come to a camp where everyone is into music.

“Being surrounded by people who like music as much as I do is just a really cool experience,” she added.

Alyssa Bonner, 15, came to the McDaniel camp for the first time this summer. A tenor saxophone player and rising sophomore at Winters Mill High School, Bonner heard about the camp from her private instructor.

“I absolutely love it,” she said.

The theory class was a challenge, she said, but it’s helped her learn a lot and be a better musician because she now understands why the notes and rhythms are written the way they are.

Bonner said for her, music is a way to take you away from whatever you’re dealing with in the real world.

“I like the way you can express yourself through music, when you’re unable to explain through words,” she said.