Registering as strangers and leaving as friends is a characteristic of summer camp. The 2015 South Florida Marching Band Precision Camp held July 20-28 at the historic Lyric Theater in Miami’s Overtown adds a special component, generations of mentors.
More than 160 middle and high school students from South Miami to West Palm Beach participated this year. There were repeat campers who returned to train under some of Florida’s best band directors and musicians. Many of the students aspire to attend colleges with notable marching bands.
This camp was created and organized by Timothy A. Barber, executive director of The Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater Cultural Complex. A percussionist, he was a head Florida A&M University drum major, 2001-02.
“This camp is designed to develop middle and high school student’s level of musicianship, marching band skills, dedication, creativity, pride, life-long friendships, teamwork, and overall enjoyment. Prior to the camp, top students from each band were selected by their band directors to participate in a five-week leadership symposium,” Barber said. “Last year’s inaugural camp was a great success while this year exceeded expectations.”
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Hosted by The Black Archives History & Research Foundation of South Florida, the South Florida Marching Band Precision Camp sponsors and supporters included: Southeast Overtown Park West Community Redevelopment Agency; Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado’s office; Miami District 5 Commissioner Keon Hardemon; Miami Worldcenter; Marching 100 Alumni Association-South Florida Chapter; Arts Unlimited; and Kevin Burch. Kamila Pritchett, development coordinator for The Black Archives Lyric Theater, helped manage operations.
With varying abilities and boundless energy, students from South Miami to West Palm Beach became campers and trained under the leadership of some of the best and most respected names in music. For the second year, the head camp clinician was Dr. Shelby R. Chipman, a graduate of Miami Northwestern Senior High, former band director of Miami Central Senior High, and currently associate professor and director of symphonic bands at Florida A&M University. He led 25 directors and staff including Dr. Julian E. White, retired FAMU Marching 100 band director; and Lindsey B. Sarjeant, arranger and director of FAMU Jazz Program, along with middle and high school directors; music teachers; and dance, majorette and flag instructors. They provided instruction, support, encouragement, and mentorship.
After only a week of practicing in sections, master classes and daily rehearsals, the campers made music together at three free events open to the public: Saturday at the Overtown Music & Arts Festival, Sunday on stage in the Symphonic & Ensemble Concert at the Lyric Theater, and Tuesday’s parade from the theater to Gibson Park. At the park, they performed show tunes and marches, as well as popular teen songs and dances. Awards were distributed. Tuesday’s performance included the Black Archives’ annual recognition of the city of Miami’s July 28th birthday and 1896 incorporation.
Parents and friends attending Sunday’s concert expressed amazement at the progress made by the campers practicing together for less than a week. Prior to the beginning of the symphonic concert, Gloria Green, a longtime friend, volunteer and supporter of The Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater, was recognized in celebration of her 90th birthday. A 1947 graduate of Miami’s Dorsey Senior High, she graduated in 1951 from Daytona’s Bethune-Cookman College, now University. While attending Bethune on numerous occasions she talked with the school’s founder, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.
At the concert’s end, Green expressed how well the campers played. The program featured campers playing in the symphonic band, percussion ensemble, jazz band, and wind symphony. “Their music is beautiful. I believe the community would pay to see such an outstanding performance. And when students do well they should be showcased like this,” Green said.
She was also delighted to see Bethune-Cookman graduates on stage with other band directors playing Festive Overture, Flight of the Bumblebee, and Military Medley. Recent Bethune-Cookman graduates Luis Martinez (class of 2012) and Darryl Clark (class of 2013) expressed pleasure in meeting Green, who graduated more than 60 years ahead of them.
Before college, both Martinez and Clark attended band camp in high school. From experience they see the benefits of supporting this summer activity.
“Summer activities that empower young people, especially inner city students, are very important in order to strengthen our communities,” Martinez said. “When students are exposed to many influential and positive experiences as possible, they have a chance to find themselves. This camp serves a great purpose because it keeps many students busy during the summer and also shows the city of Miami the great things that are happening in Overtown. Being able to see students from both Broward and Miami-Dade counties collaborate for one common purpose is amazing. What these students are able to do and showcase in 1 week is just mind blowing. The camp is very affordable and it offers so much for so little.”
Clark agrees: “Band camp is a good summer activity for students. It allows a safe and positive atmosphere and place for them to convene. It is a good thing, especially in the summer months in south Florida when our students aren’t attending school regularly. The South Florida Precision Band Camp is a great opportunity for students in the area to gain exposure to instruction of the highest quality from a host of extremely talented and qualified music professionals” spanning several generations.
For more information call 786.708-4610 or www.theblackarchives.org.
Dorothy Jenkins Fields, PhD, is a historian and founder of the Black Archives, History and Research Foundation of South Florida Inc. Send feedback to email@example.com.