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MusiCamp Plays On: Gathering of music students underway this week at BSU

(From left) Anna Gardner of Brainerd receives some one-on-one tutoring from professional trumpet player Kiku Collins on Tuesday afernoon as part of the Bemidji MusiCamp at BSU.Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI -- More than 100 student musicians are in Bemidji this week, mixing in music and fun at BSU.

The Bemidji MusiCamp kicked off Sunday and has been jam-packed with activities, small-group lessons, classes and band rehearsals at the BSU campus. The campers don't have many breaks as there is lots of practice to do in only one week. But many campers, who range in age from sixth-grade to graduated high school seniors, don't mind the busy schedule.

"I've learned many different styles of music. We have a jazz band and sectionals where we can focus on a part as a group together. There is a giant variety of bands. It's just really great," said Connor Staunton, a sixth-grade trumpet player from Chicago.

All campers play in their school bands in their hometowns and camp director Matthew Marsolek, a middle school band director from Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, hopes campers will leave with new knowledge about music and an inspiration to keep playing.

"My main goal for camp is to spark that passion for kids to kind of go 'Oh yeah this is great,'" Marsolek said. "Because oftentimes, kids play in band and they like it, but this camp gives kids a chance to get together with other student musicians who love doing what they're doing. Putting campers in an environment where it's very accelerated learning will hopefully give them a little more knowledge and understanding of their own instrument and music in general.

"It might give them some passion to find that internal motivation to continue being involved in music."

About 15 years ago, Marsolek himself was a Bemidji music camper and said attending summer camp was an experience that helped him realize he loved music and wanted to pursue it and become a music educator.

Although some campers are serious about staying on the music path, many just love music and play for fun.

"I decided to come to MusiCamp mainly because I enjoy playing music, and I wanted to be surrounded by people that also have a passion for it as well," said Claudia Althoen a senior percussionists and pianist from Bemidji.

Practice, practice, practice

Kiku Collins, a professional trumpet player and guest artist at MusiCamp, stresses the importance of playing music if it is something that makes you happy.

"Do it if you love it," she said. "If you do it because you're good at it, but you don't enjoy it, it's not worth pursuing."

Collins has been involved in music since a young age and worked very hard to get where she is, she said. Collins has performed with well-known artists including Michael Bolton, Gloria Gaynor, Train and Beyonce. She has also played on "The Today Show," as well as on Oprah Winfrey's show, and at The Grammys, and, by the way, for President Obama at the White House. Although she was a naturally gifted trumpet player, she still had to spend a lot of time practicing and even now spends a few hours practicing daily.

At camp, Collins is teaching and helping horn players improve their playing and technique. Many campers she's been working with say they haven't practiced their instrument all summer. "Some of them are saying that they have been practicing over the summer, and I can hear it," she said.

If you want to be good, practicing is a must. Collins said she has been recommending campers to try to play for just a half hour each day to help keep playing skills sharp.

"I'm hoping campers will walk away from camp with the passion to improve without having someone standing over them and telling them they need to practice," she said.

"I really liked getting to meet Kiku," said Katelyn Weeks, senior oboe player from Anoka. "It's really cool to see that you can go somewhere in music because Kiku has really had a lot of success."

Bemidji MusiCamp campers come from across Minnesota and the Midwest. This is the 64th year of the camp, but the first one since it was halted because of budget cuts and restructuring several years ago at BSU.

Last summer, a committee wanting to restart the camp began planning the comeback and received a grant from the Region 2 Arts Council to help fund the camp. The MusiCamp Committee also raised more than $4,000 to fund scholarships for those who otherwise may not have been able to attend.

Many campers said they have really enjoyed getting to know different people who share a love for music.

"My favorite thing about camp has been meeting all the new people and experiencing new things," said Emma Staunton, a seventh-grade clarinet player from Chicago. "I'm looking forward to the talent show and swimming in the lake."

The 2014 Bemidji MusiCamp will wrap up Saturday with a concert by campers at 1:30 p.m. at Bangsberg Hall and is free and open to the public.