FHSU camp is a musical treasure on the High Plains

Allen, Ivalah

05/29/15
Every year High Plains Music Camp, hosted by Fort Hays State University, draws junior high and high school musicians from all over Kansas, and even a few from states such as Texas and Tennessee. The relatively unknown camp has a loyal following.

Shelly New, assistant orchestra director at McKinney Boyd High School, McKinney Texas, has taught at High Plains since she was a student at FHSU and now brings some of her students from Texas with her.

"Every student who goes wants to come back immediately," said New. "They wish it was a week longer. By the end of the week, they always leave playing better than they did before."

Dr. Ivalah Allen, associate professor of music and theatre at FHSU, is the High Plains Music Camp director. She and dozens of other camp faculty members strive to offer students of any playing ability a chance to grow as musicians while still having fun.

"Students receive top quality music instruction from music specialists around the country," said Allen.

"With approximately 300 middle and high school campers each year -- in band, jazz band, choir, and orchestra -- there is an expectation to keep the quality of musical choices and instruction high," said Allen.

Campers will participate in a large ensemble, small ensemble and one mini-class. Topics ranging from "Conducting" to "Wedding Gigs for String Players" are offered by departmental faculty, alumni and guest artists. This year's camp will feature four renowned guest artists.

Theodore Kuchar, who will conduct the faculty and high school orchestras, is the Fresno, Calif., Philharmonic music director and conductor. He has served as artistic director and conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine; collaborated with artists such as Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, and Mstislav Rostropovich; and is hailed as one of the most recorded conductors in the last decade.

Gretchen Harrison will direct the middle and high school choirs. She is choir director at Frontier Trail Middle School in Olathe and is also assistant director of the Allegro Community Children's Choir based in Overland Park. She has served in chair positions at numerous state and national music associations.

Two jazz clinicians will be featured: Rodney Jones and Pete Zimmer. Jones teaches jazz guitar at the Julliard School, New York, and has recorded with artists such as Billy Joel, Ray Charles, and James Brown.

Zimmer, a standout in the New York City jazz scene, teaches at the New York Jazz Academy, and has recorded five critically acclaimed albums as a bandleader and five albums as a sideman.

Campers have the opportunity to work closely with these and other faculty members.

"It's lots of fun," said Natalee Thomas, a recent graduate from Stockton who will major in music at FHSU in the fall. "It's intense, but not overly competitive, so you still get that intensive atmosphere without the stress of competition."

"Campers not only spend hours in rehearsals and various classes but they also have time to get to know each other," said Allen.

"Many campers come to camp every year, up to seven years, to be with camp friends they otherwise would not have had the opportunity to meet," said Allen. "They have fun during free time, impromptu sporting activities, the talent show, and camp dance."

"Campers can also hear concerts every evening, including performances by camp faculty and specialists. The honor camper recital and the faculty orchestra will also be featured," she said.

Registration for the camp, which offers students a level of musical training unparalleled in western Kansas, is still open. The camp will take place July 12-18 at the Fort Hays State University campus. New registrations will be accepted until camp begins; however, after June 15, a $100 fee will be added.

"As long as they are registered by June 15, the late fee does not apply -- even if they have not paid the full amount," said Allen.

The cost of registration for full campers is $495, which includes tuition, room and meals. Campers who do not wish to stay in the dormitories can attend as day campers, which costs $200. An optional $50 meal card is available for campers who wish to eat lunch on campus. In addition, students may take private lessons from instructors at a rate of $25 per 30-minute lesson, which is payable directly to the instructor.

Families with multiple campers are awarded a $50 scholarship for each child. Payments for registrations may be made in increments until July 1, at which time campers must make full payments. Refunds for cancellations, minus $100 for residence hall reservations, are offered until June 10.

Allen realizes that the cost is prohibitive for some students.

"If you know of a student who would really like to come, but needs financial assistance, have them call. We can give them a scholarship. We try to help as many people come to camp as possible," she said.

For more information, visit www.fhsu.edu/musiccamp/, or contact Allen at (785) 628-4226 or ijallen@fhsu.edu.

PHOTO: Dr. Ivalah Allen

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