Early bird tickets for Baltimore’s BEST party on sale now!

The band plays on at summer camp


The leader of the band detected one discordant note as 14 music students launched into a lively "Songs of the Sage."

"Jeff, why are you playing?" asked Dave Smith of a young percussionist. "You are not supposed to be in yet."

A quick check of the score found Jeff Steinbach, 12, reading "Songs of the Sea." The student quickly switched sheets and picked up the right beat.

"We have a beautiful melody here and don't be afraid of it," said Mr. Smith, pulling the children into the music with a gentle enthusiasm.

On his cue, the young musicians struck up their summer band, and classical music resounded from the Freedom Optimist Club in Eldersburg.

The children have joined a summer band program under the leadership of Mr. Smith, an Eldersburg resident and band director at Ridgely Middle School in Timonium. Many of his Baltimore County students have followed their leader to Carroll County for the four two-hour camp sessions.

"He is a good teacher," said Jeff, who lives in Timonium. "I could listen to him all year."

Mr. Smith said the camp offers students an opportunity to play during the summer months.

When school reopens, said Sarah Nelson, 13, she won't be dusting off her flute as she has the past few years.

"We are tuning in now," she said.

Mr. Smith said he hopes to build the summer program into an annual event. The evening hours make it easier for working parents.

"We play for a few hours in a real low-pressure setting, where the children get to meet new friends with similar interests," he said.

Matthew Groves, 13, said that playing at camp is "more fun and easier" than playing solo at his Baltimore County home.

"If anybody makes a mistake, it doesn't matter," he said. "We just keep going on."

Lindsey Schuch, 12, who studies with Mr. Smith during the school year, said she enjoys the personal attention.

"He can work with us more here,she said. "In class, we have 40 kids. Fourteen is a lot better."

The only enrollment requirement is one year's experience playing an instrument. Mr. Smith places no age restrictions.

Don Gury threw his trombone into the back seat of the car before he drove his daughter to the first night of camp.

"I thought if they needed me, I could round out the sound," said Mr. Gury, who has played intermittently for about 20 years.

Mr. Smith offered him a seat in the brass section, where he now blares out notes and accompanies his 12-year-old clarinetist daughter, Gina Rest.

"I have heard many of these kids in concert, and they are good," Mr. Gury said. "This camp will only help them get better."

Casual is the keynote, from clothing to attitude. Players wear shorts, T-shirts and baseball caps. No audience unnerves this orchestra.

"I like performing for other people, but it can be overwhelming," said Kristen Judge, 13. "Here, we just play for ourselves and we get to see our friends."

Matt Parlette, 12, of Sykesville called the "just for fun" experience relaxing.

And, it's better than playing alone, said Jeremy Tippett, 12, of Westminster. He doesn't shy away from practicing on his drums, but he craves cadent company.

"Practice is no fun by yourself," Jeremy said. "You can get more into your music when other people are playing, too. You can hear yourself blend in."

The band boasts one brother-sister team: Jason and Jessica Fitzgerald of Sykesville. They said their mother calls the camp a jam session.

"She told us if we learned something it would be great, but she wants us to have fun," said Jason, 13, as he strums a string bass.

Jason wants "to get better and keep playing in high school. The only way to get better is to practice."

David Field, 13, who will be marching in the Dulaney High School band in September, enrolled in this camp to help prepare himself for a rigorous marching band camp next month.

"This camp is a great warm-up for me," the trumpet player said.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad