Of the three years in which I've been on staff at The Salvation Army's Indiana Music Camp, I would have to say that this year was my all-time favorite. I'm so glad I was able to verbalize my hesitations (because of the overwhelming number of assignments in past years, I just wasn't sure I wanted to go again) and resolve that issue (I only had three assignments - Jr. Vocal leader, instrumental solo contest judge and newspaper elective assistant, so it was stress-free and enjoyable). I know the campers benefited from our instruction, but I also came away with so many blessings from our time together.
I was able to accompany two friends, who were both in key leadership/planning positions for the encampment, a day in advance to assist with set up. Campers began arriving on Saturday between one and three and the junior vocal students headed to the faculty lounge for their placement audition with me. It isn't really an audition, because they will be placed by age in my group, but at least it gives me a chance to check out a few things like whether or not they can read music or if they can carry a tune. Sadly, none of them could read music and only a handful could carry a tune. Having been there before with this group, I still was hopeful that we would be able to whip our two songs in shape by the final concert a week later.
I was asked to be in a small skit for the introductory meeting Saturday night. I played a creepy forest creature who stole horses and tried to trip up three travelers by playing a similar tune to the Master's tune. Sunday night, the campers enjoyed a water carnival and I was so grateful that I wasn't expected to suit up and join the kids in the pool. Shwew! The missions night was tremendously effective as the special guests illustrated for the kids the common ailments which often kill children in other countries, the deprivations they have to survive, and the differences in resources available for individuals depending on the country of their birth. The lesson was clear with a powerful challenge to pray, give, and go.
On Tuesday evening the kids had a Minute-to-Win-It kind of game night. I was in charge of a game where the kids had to place a tongue depressor in their mouth and balance as many dice on it as they could. Wednesday was a hectic night as the solos raced past with barely enough time to think about what constructive comments could be made and how to rate the solos on the various elements like tone quality, intonation, technique, and stage presence. I discovered afterwards that I graded every soloist far lower than the other judges did, but since I was consistently lower it all averaged out to determine the first, second, and third place winners in the instrumental categories (brass, piano, percussion). It was challenging, but still an enjoyable experience. Thursday evening the kids put on an Indiana's Got Talent show (lots of plays on songs from Frozen) and Friday evening the Faculty Band performed a few numbers for the special guest's musical presentation.
This year's director really streamlined things to make the week less stressful. We didn't have daily Faculty Band rehearsals, but rather only rehearsed one time and only performed in the Friday evening performance night. We didn't require the band students to take a vocal class and the vocal students to take a rhythm class, so that was one less instructor responsibility. Plus, when we taught theory, it was all together in the dining hall with one instructor per table for checking and assistance while the students worked through small theory packets. (Boy, I should have brushed up on my theory before I went.)
Once again, I had a wonderful time fellowshipping with the rest of the faculty. We were a smaller group, and thus more connected. They provided three special evening treats following the meeting, Call to the Cross, and faculty devotions. (Call to the Cross is a time when the campers received a devotional from one of the officers on the faculty. I provided assistance for a few of the little skits she presented during these times, but they were always enjoyable and low-key.) On Monday night, we were served pizza. On Wednesday, a small group of us went to Steak-and-Shake for a wonderful time of fellowship which left us arriving back at camp past midnight (thus, opening the door for several of us to come down with the respiratory cold being passed around the campers - yippee). And on Friday night, the divisional commander's wife presented us with homemade brownies and an ice cream sundae bar.
Several interesting things happened during the week of camp. First of all, when my boys called to tell me about their trip with Daddy to Holiday World, they informed me that they had gotten lost from him for a short time. Had I been there instead of hearing about it after-the-fact, I would have been having a heart attack. Then there was the morning when my neighbors on either side of my room informed me that I had woken them at 3 in the morning singing, quite loudly I should add, the catchiest of the two songs my campers were working on. Apparently, I'm a sleep-singer! Finally, during our last rehearsal, one of the campers suddenly fell to the floor and had a seizure. Thankfully, the camp staffers (college age kids who were assigned to assist me) were quick to respond (the nurse was there within a few minutes) and once she came to, the girl ended up being fine.
I think my greatest success for the week took place during the Jr. Vocal performance at the final concert of the encampment. My kids (a group of 17 campers) really nailed both songs. They had been speeding up in several parts and not staying with the music, but for the final performance all eyes were on me and every single kid did the motions (several of the campers were none too cooperative when it came to doing the motions during rehearsals). As we were singing, I began to realize something really cool. At the first placement audition, one of my campers named Tatum, was too shy to even sing a single note for me. During the week, I had selected one soloist for the second number, "The Building Song," and opened up for auditions for the second solo. Of the seven kids who wanted the second solo, only Tatum and Courtney were solid on the pitches, but Courtney had already performed in Wednesday night's solo competition, so I made an executive decision and gave the part to Tatum. This once shy girl, overcame her fear and gave a really strong performance when her time came. I suppose, in like manner, I rose to the occasion. I was feeling insecure about my abilities to lead the junior choir, but we ended up really shining! It was a wonderful, challenging but refreshing, week away from home and my boys were all really glad to see me when I returned (always a nice feeling).