FAMU Band Camp Returns After Four-Year Hiatus
By Andrew J. Mitchell, Jr.
For four years, Sam Houston High School band booster Patrise Harkless could not allow her high schoolers to participate in Florida A&M University’s Band Camp.
The 2011 death of FAMU drum major Robert Champion led to the suspension of the band camp.
Since then, the university has experienced changes and has brought back one of the more well-renown band camps in the country. Campers from as far away as Germany and across the nation participated in the musicality and a sense of cohesion that people like Harkless expected their kids to receive.
Harkless escorted 37 newcomers and one veteran camper, who went to the last FAMU camp. Her students came by bus from Texas to Florida. She said the best part about the camp is the impact on the students.
“You can see a difference in the way they were before they came and then the way they are now as we leave,” Harkless said. “I can speak personally from my experience. I saw the same thing in my son who did band camp four years here when he was in high school.”
Harkless’ son changed postively every time he visted the camp and she believes that the camp will continue to cultivate the new generation.
Shelby Chipman, FAMU’s associate professor and director of symphonic bands, is the coordinator for the event and is active in all parts of the week. Throughout the week, students encounter different events on campus where they bond and are educated on the right way to play instruments. Chipman believes the experience offers a lot for campers.
“We believe that our summer band camp is one of the most comprehensive camps in the country in terms of what it offers in the duration of one week, “ Chipman said. “Such as the concert bands, jazz bands, master class session as well as director forums everyday and social activities.”
The camp took place from July 11-18 and campers could be seen playing music notes with friends during breaks or learning from the current band members who are counselors during the week.
Chavez Caley is a drum major for the band and volunteered as one of the counselors for the week. He loved the chance to work with new comers and possible future Rattlers.
“It was good to see all the kids and seeing all their different personalities and showing them all our different styles,” Caley said. “So, now they can know what the Marching 100 is all about and music in general, from doing marching band and concert band at the same time.”
The week ended with a performance at Bragg Memorial Stadium and a ceremony for campers where counselors came together to decide what campers deserved distinct honors.