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And the band played on: BSU music camp is second longest running in U.S.

Bemidji State University's mascot may be the Beaver, but the lasting image of its summer music camp just may be Betty Masoner.

Masoner, 80, has been at every music camp since it debuted in 1948. First, she was a student, then a manager and helper, and finally an instructor.

"I like to share what I have learned from people with (the students)," Masoner said.

The music camp concludes at 1:30 p.m. today with a free concert in tandem with Art in the Park beside Lake Bemidji downtown near the waterfront.

The camp this year has about 65 participants in three different bands, including a jazz band. It also includes camps for vocalists and pianists.

The BSU music camp, now known as MusiCamp, is the second-longest U.S. music camp, according to Del Lyren, BSU's professor of high brass and music camp director. The longest running camp is Interlachen National Music Camp in Michigan, which was founded in 1928, Lyren said.

"I travel a lot, and everywhere I go, when I tell someone I've from Bemidji - sitting next to me on a plane, or wherever - someone always says, 'I went to music camp there,'" Lyren said.

Lyren also attends the Midwest Clinic, an international band and music conference in Chicago, and he said he hears similar sentiments there as well.

"It's a world-famous music camp," he said.

The Bemidji music camp was founded by Maurice Callahan, who was named the college's instrumental music director in January 1948. He quickly implemented plans for a band clinic to be held on campus that summer. The guest conductor would be Frank Simon of the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

Masoner, a graduate of the college, wrote a history of the music camp for her thesis, covering 1948 to 1972.

"Simon was one of the leading band directors in the country," she wrote. "At the close of the first BSTC band clinic Simon predicted that it would grow to be one of the best music camps in the nation."

More than 100 students attended the first camp. Masoner was one of two student helpers and her job was to help students write their names and addresses on index cards.

The second year, there were 218 participants, Masoner said.

The music camp traditionally has recruited visiting directors and musicians to help with the music clinic. In the past 60 years, they have included Kenneth Bloomquist, cornet and trumpet; Jaroslav Cimera, trombone; Jane Dietrich, cornet and trumpet; and many others.

"(The music camp) has brought in really famous specialists in every instrument," Lyren said.

For Masoner, that was one of the allures of the music camp. Masoner, a percussionist, was taught to play the cymbals by William Ludwig Sr. of Ludwig and Ludwig Drum Company.

During her time as an assistant and an instructor, she was invited to relax and sit alongside renowned musicians, she said.

"She hung out with some very famous people," Lyren said.

Masoner has seen many interesting personalities throughout her years of involvement. From the conductor who hid a whip in the front of his jacket - he got some laughs from his students when he showed it to them - to the changes in society. She also recalled how director Alfred Reed let her talk about what she liked or did not like about the selection of music.

"One of the most interesting things is that in 1948 ... girls were not allowed to wear shorts," Masoner said. "This year's uniform for the concert is shorts and a T-shirt."

Masoner does not know how long she will continue to work with the camp.

But, "why I am living in Bemidji is because of the camp," Masoner said.

The two orchestra bands each practice about two hours a day, the jazz band practices two hours a day, students also have small ensemble practices for one hour a day, and each section - strings, bass, etc. - practice one hour a day during the camp, Lyren said, adding that many students play in a orchestra band and in the jazz band.

"Most students practice six hours a day," he said. "They're enthusiastic and want to play as much as they can."

Masoner said that the students who return year after year - the camp is open to seventh- to 12th-graders - develop friendships and look forward to band camp each summer.

"It's camaraderie," she said.