Students attend band clinic

Jake Lunsford, Staff Reporter

Senior Collin Steves (far left) practices percussion during a band class at the University of South Carolina’s honors band program.
Senior Collin Steves (far left) practices percussion during a band class at the University of South Carolina’s honors band program.

Over 400 students from high schools in Maryland through Texas take a trip every year to The University of South Carolina to participate in the college’s renowned Band Clinic. Band directors nominate 10th grade and older students who are eligible to participate, and they take the students on a four day road trip to USC where they learn instrument and performance techniques and have the opportunity to play in front of the entire university.
“This camp is top notch,” band director Andrew Paul said. “The guest conductors are the best in the world. I’ve been to at least seven other band camps like this one in respectable universities, but none of them come close to the quality of USC. Everything they have is top notch.”
This year, Paul nominated seniors Kayla Griffith, Emma Nobile, and Ben Thompson, junior Mya Payne, and sophomore Kristi Lapins to attend the camp. The group travels to the campus on Valentines Day and returns that Sunday.
The students in the clinic will audition for a spot in one of four ensembles. Each of the four ensembles consists of around 100 students and a hired conductor. Three of the bands have equal skill levels while the fourth is an honor band with the exceptionally able students. The students have lunch and then attend concerts performed by the university’s band and by professional symphonies.
“I absolutely think students should go,” Paul said. “I attended this one as a high school student. They get experience and learn a lot, to say the least.”
The students lodge at a nearby hotel, and Friday and Saturday they have intense 8 a.m. to 11p.m. instruction on their instruments. University professors teach the students instrument techniques, with at least one professor for every instrument. They also spend this time practicing for their performance. On Sunday, all four ensembles perform what they’ve practiced in front of the university students at a world class facility that rivals the Kennedy Center.
Last year Thompson attended the camp with a few other students from the county, and he will go again this year.
“It’s pretty intense because you have to learn all the songs in just two days,” Thompson said. “But everyone’s so experienced, so it’s more fun rather than a big challenge. I want to do it again and see if I can do better in the standings. I hope to get to the honor band. Last year I came close, but this year I want to break though.”
Paul says that all the students that have gone in the previous years have said they enjoyed it. The students get to roam the city, eating at really nice restaurants and visiting record stores. They also get to know each other well, particularly during the seven hour car ride. Senior Collin Steves also went to the camp last year.
“Ben Thompson was the only person I was rooming with that I knew,” Steves said. “But the other guys and I became good friends. All of us who went down together were just with each other a lot, whether we were practicing, eating, at the hotel, or just hanging out. We were the only people we knew in a program with hundreds of students, so it brought us closer.”
The clinic also allows students to get a taste of what majoring in music would be like, and it looks good on college résumés.
“After the trip I realized that I didn’t want to major in percussion or performance but still wanted to major in music,” Steves said. “So now I’m auditioning at colleges with piano and a major in music business.”
Both Steves and Thompson were surprised at how fun the conductors made the experience, despite the intensity of the clinic.
“I enjoyed it,” Steves said. “The place is great. You are surrounded by people who are passionate about music, and you learn off of other students, as well as the conductors. I would recommend it for any student if they are passionate about their instrument.”