NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” Just ask Jose Carmona, a music student from Sincelejo, Colombia with limited English skills, who traveled nearly 2,000 miles to attend a summer camp for musicians at Tennessee State University.
Carmona is one of 90 students from around the country and South America taking part in the Edward L. Graves Summer High School Band camp through June 28. The camp, now in its third year, is known for fostering musicianship and marching expertise in high-school students from 9th to 12th grade.
“That has been the hardest part of this camp,” said Carmona through a translator. “Aside from the marching and getting up early for practice, not understanding the language has been hard. But through the music and instruction, it has all come together.”
Carmona, who is here as a part of an exchange program with 16 other members of his university band, joins students from across the U.S. who have descended on the campus for eight days to learn what it takes to be part of an elite university marching band.
According to Dr. Reginald McDonald, acting Director of Bands, students from as far as Chicago, Atlanta, Kansas City, Kansas, and Memphis, Tennessee, have come to the University to learn the rigors of performing as a member of TSU’s Aristocrat of Bands and what it takes to be successful in today’s collegiate band programs.
“This is a great opportunity for high school students to be exposed to a university setting and our music program,” he said. “When they return to their high school, they will have the tools to be a productive member of their high-school marching band.”
Also, McDonald said, many students come to the camp as a stepping-stone once they graduate from high school to become a member of the Aristocrat of Bands.
Marcus Cooper, an alto saxophone player from Oxon Hill, Maryland, said his ultimate goal is to march and play in the University’s world-renown marching band.
“This is my second time attending this camp,” said the soon-to-be high school senior. “I love everything we are learning, from the marching style and breathing, to keeping up your tone and different music styles. It has made my decision easier to eventually attend TSU and be a member of the band.”
Laurie Ordonez, a junior from Kansas City, agreed, saying that the camp will prepare her not only for college, but also a larger role in her school band when she returns to her school in the fall. Along with playing the piccolo, she is also taking part in drum major training.
“I was told by our band director at my high school that this is some of the best musical and marching experience I could get, and it would prepare me for the next phase of my musical aspirations,” she said. “In the few short days I’ve been here I’ve been able to focus on playing with more confidence, memorize music quicker, and most importantly, play loud the TSU way and not sound sloppy.”
After eight days of early-morning workouts and grueling practices, the students will have the opportunity to show off what they have learned at the end of camp. They are scheduled to perform Friday, June 27, at the Edward L. Graves Retirement Gala, honoring his 34-year career as director of the Aristocrat of Bands.
The gala takes place at 7 p.m. in Kean Hall on the main campus. In addition to paying tribute to Professor Graves, the gala will launch the Edward L. Graves Scholarship Endowment that will provide scholarships to students participating in the TSU Band.
Family members will also have the opportunity to listen to the high school musicians during “The Showcase” concert Saturday, June 28 at the Gentry Center. The concert is free and open to the public.
“I’m proud of what these young students have been able to accomplish in just few days,” added McDonald. “They sound great, they’re talented, and have an excellent music foundation that will translate into their current programs and future endeavors.”
For more information about the Gala or Showcase, contact Michelle Allen, Band Office Manager, at 615.963.5350.
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With nearly 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.