The (Macon) Telegraph
MACON — A marching band will be back at Mercer University this fall for the first time since before World War II, and this week the university played host to a marching band camp for Georgia high school students.
The camp — a first for Mercer — is a Yamaha Sounds of Summer percussion camp, one of more than 40 like it across the country.
Doug Cowden, Mercer’s director of marching and athletic bands, said the first goal of the camp is community outreach. Students from across the state learn cutting-edge techniques in percussion that they likely wouldn’t learn in school, and camp organizers hope they take their newfound knowledge back to their high school bands.
“We’re helping our students (in the camp), but we’re also helping Georgia high schools at the same time,” he said.
Cowden said while there are just 16 campers this summer, the camp is structured so it can grow to include several hundred students each year.
The camp also aims to funnel students into Mercer University’s marching band. Several of this year’s campers will march with Mercer later this year, when the university fields a football team for the first time in seven decades.
The camp, which ends today, includes master classes with famous percussionist James Campbell. Campbell’s accomplishments include serving as principal instructor, arranger and program coordinator of the award-winning Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps of Rosemont, Ill.
Percussion instructor Jason Parker said he grew up watching Campbell’s drumlines and went on to play with the Cavaliers after Campbell left the corps.
“(On Thursday) my idol is coming to teach,” Parker said. “Being able to teach with him, words can’t describe.”
Parker said teaching percussion is a combination of musical technique and the physics of muscle memory.
“How you teach, it’s not just whole notes, quarter notes and half notes. But you teach how to recognize when the muscle memory is correct and how to repeat it,” Parker said. “What we’re striving for here is to give students the tools to succeed every time they touch the drum.”
While the Yamaha camp emphasizes percussion, Mercer has added students who play horns or woodwind instruments and participate in color guard.
The campers were taught some marching basics, but Cowden said true marching drills will be saved for when there are more students. As the camp grows, he said, it will become an all-encompassing marching band experience.
The Sounds of Summer Percussion Camp is just the start of Mercer’s partnership with Yamaha, which will continue to sponsor the marching band in the fall. Cowden said new instruments for the band are currently being made by Yamaha, but in the interim the campers are using instruments on loan from the Carolina Crown Drum and Bugle Corps.
In addition to Yamaha, the camp is also sponsored by Zildjian Cymbals and Evans Drumheads.