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Band Camp Returns to FAMU

Campers lined up at attention.
Nick Evans

Summer band camp has returned the practice field at Florida A&M University after a four year furlough.  The clinic aims to develop musicianship and boost recruitment.

It’s barely 9 in the morning and it’s already sweltering on FAMU’s practice field.

“Percussion! Percussion!” Shelby Chipman shouts over the drumline, “Find some shade!  You can do that, but find some shade over there.  Get ‘em out of the sun.”

Chipman is an associate professor of music at the school and he’s the band camp’s coordinator.  This is the first camp since 2011, when the program became embroiled in a hazing scandal after one of its drum majors was killed.  The summer camp’s return is another step in FAMU’s effort to get back to normal, and Camille Howard says the school has turned the page.

“I definitely believe they have,” Howard says, “Like I said, they’re very disciplined and they have a no tolerance policy.”

Howard is down from Detroit, Michigan.  She has two kids participating in the camp. 

“They’re learning techniques and things that you know we wouldn’t normally have in Detroit,” Howard says.  “So, it’s really exciting.  The kids they’re really excited—they’re complaining about the heat a little bit, but otherwise they’re really excited about learning new things, and going back home and showing what they’ve learned.”

Chipman says the camp stresses what he calls the four T-s, “Tone, tuning, technique and timing,” Chipman says.  “When you put all those elements together and you work on them in a methodical way, you can produce better individual musicians, which of course is going to allow those different ensembles to be better as they perform.”

And Chipman says while the program helps campers develop skills, it also plays an important role for the school.

“This band camp serves as a major recruitment for the university in that many of the students that come here will eventually matriculate to FAMU,” he says, “and of course, all those students won’t major in music.  They’ll major in pharmacy, architecture, and engineering, computer science, and law.”

After spending the past few days working in smaller sections, Wednesday morning the students start putting the pieces together.  Saturday they’ll be on the field, showing off what they’ve learned.

Nick Evans came to Tallahassee to pursue a masters in communications at Florida State University. He graduated in 2014, but not before picking up an internship at WFSU. While he worked on his degree Nick moved from intern, to part-timer, to full-time reporter. Before moving to Tallahassee, Nick lived in and around the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years. He listens to far too many podcasts and is a die-hard 49ers football fan. When Nick’s not at work he likes to cook, play music and read.