In the Loop
General News : Jul 6, 2017

UF Gatorland Band Camp offers learning opportunities to middle and high school students

By Macey Wilson

This summer, middle and high school students had the opportunity to visit UF and learn from the esteemed School of Music faculty.

John M. “Jay”  Watkins, Jr., Director of the Gator Band, said there were students from all over the Southeast, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Alabama and Maryland.

The camp had two different learning opportunities for students: Instrumental Camp and the Concert Band "Total Musicianship Camp." There were no auditions to be in the camp. The only requirement for students was to have at least one year of band class from their school.

“We want to provide opportunities for as many students as possible,” Watkins said.

The Gator Band Alumni Association (GBAA), an affiliate of the UF Alumni Association, is made up of band alumni members who support Gator Band students through scholarship and program funding. The Band Camps also receive support from individuals like GBAA president Robin Oegerle, who sent a student to band camp for the third year in a row through the Robin Oegerle Education Fund.

“It helps the Band Camp, certainly helps the student and assists in recruiting good students to UF,” Oegerle said.

This year, in honor of the International Gator Day (a day where UF Alumni Association Members give back to their communities), the GBAA sent Jeremiah Ruiz. Ruiz is a student at Coral Gables High School, Oegerle’s alma mater.

“It was an amazing experience, from the dorms to learning how to to read difficult music,” Ruiz said. “If I had any regret, it would be that I wish I knew about this early in my school years.”

Instrumental Band Camp, taught by UF Wind and Percussion faculty, was June 17-19 and gave students in-depth lessons on their instruments. Campers learned technique and worked on solo and chamber music. They also went over audition materials for the All State Band.

Concert Band Camp, divided into the Orange Band and the Blue Band, was June 19-24. Campers took part in full-band rehearsals, sectionals, master classes, chamber music and daily electives such as music theory or jazz band. It also had optional private lessons. Both the Orange and Blue Bands ended with a concert the final day, June 23, to demonstrate what they learned over the week.

“The camp has been going off and on for well over 20 years,” Watkins said. “We modify it slightly each year to try and make it a unique camp experience.”

While at the camp, students also went on tours of UF’s different colleges and schools and took part in photo scavenger hunts with campus landmarks. Three of the current camp counselors and section leaders in the Gator Band attended the camp when they were in high school.

“We take students around campus and orient them to UF,” Watkins said. “The camp serves as a great recruiting activity for the University by getting middle and high school students comfortable with the campus and excited about attending UF in the future.”