“Beginners do not have to sound bad.”
That was the philosophy at a unique band camp that, for the last eight weeks, groomed students without prior band experience into marching band proteges.
Since June, participants of the Youth Bands of America summer camp held at Richmond Heights Middle School explored the nuances of playing in a marching band. To the delight of parents and friends, the over 70 Miami-Dade County students showed off their newly gained musical prowess at a concert held at the middle school Wednesday evening.
Led by distinguished music professor Julian White, with help from local music directors, throughout the summer, the aspiring musicians were exposed to different wind and percussion instruments and marching routines characteristic of marching bands.
For many of them, it was the first time playing an instrument. At the concert, the students marched, queued up in drum lines, and played recognizable hip-hop tunes inspired by Little Nas X, Lil' John and DMX, as parents cheered for their favorite young musicians.
“I learned a lot,” said Que’loni Burnside, 14, who had never played an instrument before entering the Youth Bands of America summer camp.
Que’loni, like all of the participants, tried her hand at different instruments such as the saxophone, french horn, tuba, flute, clarinet, trombone, as well as the different kinds of drums, before settling for the trumpet.
“They taught me how to play the trumpet, and as we kept going, they pushed us harder and harder,” she said.
The Youth Bands of America summer band camp aims to use musicianship to develop the students’ discipline and self-confidence.
“Kids love to play music,” said White, a band director with over 50 years of experience. “Beyond that, the main thing is that they learn discipline, self-confidence and poise.”
The camp allows students to experience playing and being in front of people while using music to practice concepts of studying and working collaboratively with others to reach a goal, White said.
Aside from the music, the students were taught discipline by standing in attention, walking and marching in a straight line and learning how to stay still at command, said Que’loni said, who plans to attend Robert Morgan Educational Center in the fall. “They are hard on us but they do it with love and care,” she said.
With over 70 participants, this marks the most successful summer band camp for the program that is going on its third-year run.
The program was made possible thanks to the collaborative efforts of District 9 County Commissioner Dennis Moss, the Richmond-Perrine and Greater Goulds Optimist Clubs, and The Children’s Trust.
“The youth band program brings youth off the streets and into a positive environment where they will learn not just music and marching skills, but life skills including a sense of worth, dignity, and self-esteem,” Moss said.
Participants receive training, instruments, and lunch for the duration of the summer program at no cost to them.
White was so impressed with the progress of the participants that he plans to take the group to next year’s Florida Battle of the Bands, he said.
For Que’loni, she was happy spending her summer learning to play different instruments and being part of the band.
“This was very fun, I see myself returning next year,” she said.