The sound of music on the Gustavus campus is a common occurrence from Christ Chapel to Björling Recital Hall. It has been central to the College’s history since the doors opened at St. Ansgar’s Academy. From early music to Bach to the Beatles, sacred to secular, from the music department’s first concert tour in 1887, music has always been a very public part of the life of the Gustavus community. However, if it’s July and you hear refrains from the 1968 Sly and the Family Stone classic Dance To The Music across the campus with an occasional “5-6-7-8” interjected, it can only mean one thing. The 2013 Gustavus Show Choir Summer Music Camp has begun.
The Gustavus Show Choir Summer Music Camp opened on July 14 and runs through July 20 with 77 high school singers and dancers from across Midwest converging on the campus to sing and dance (and sweat) through an intensive 7-day schedule. Led by a team of national experts in show choir choreography, vocal coaching and performance techniques, the camp will conclude on Saturday, July 20 at 1:00 p.m. with a public performance in Alumni Hall in the Campus Student Center. Admission is free and tickets are not required.
Camp director Brandon Dean is delighted with the camp’s packed attendance in only its second year. It’s not surprising that the camp has come to prominence so quickly with the popularity of high school show choirs across the country and the continuing popularity of TV’s Glee and Smash. Staffing the camp with some of the nation’s leading show choir coaches and choreographers certainly helps as again this year music directors Lin Warren, Terry Voss and choreographers April James and Stephen Todd are working with the camp participants. Dean is also happy with the progress the campers have made with the music and the choreography, both of which were unknown to the campers until they registered and received their folders on Sunday.
Rachel Bruch-Anderson, a senior at Hastings High School (Minn.), didn’t hesitate to register to come back for a second year. “It great to be back and performing with so many singers who enjoy show choir as much as I do. Everyone’s here to sing and dance.” And it’s great to get back together with so many of last summer’s campers again. During the past year, Bruch-Anderson and other 2012 campers organized get-togethers in the Twin Cities to sing and dance music from the camp. They even created a Facebook group to stay in touch and share experiences during the school year and plan for this summer’s camp.
Bemidji High senior Joe Lukowski’s future plans include work as a high school choral director. This summer’s camp fits into his plans perfectly. “When I start teaching, I hope to either coach an existing show choir program or create a new one. Either way, I will be coaching a show choir.” For Lukowski, the program for the camp is a mini-plan for creating a program. One he’ll be able to use in the future. Returning camper Michael Clement, a senior at Iowa City West High School, is delighted to be back, seeing so many familiar faces from last summer and working again with choreographer April James. Fueled by last summer’s memories, Clement returned to Iowa City and helped coach members of his high school’s show choir. He returned for this summer’s camp with two classmates from Iowa City West.
When Annaliese Saathoff (Lincoln SW High School, Neb.) and Drew Saiz (Onalaska High School, Wisc.) attended the Hastings Swinging by the River Show Choir festival in February, they had not heard of the Gustavus summer camp and didn’t realize their performances that day could lead to Gustavus. With the camp director, Dr. Brandon Dean, watching as an adjudicator, the two performers took top honors as Best Female and Best Male Solo and found themselves in a meeting with the Gustavus camp director, receiving a scholarship to attend the Gustavus Show Choir Summer Camp. The opportunity was a perfect fit, according to Saiz. “I want to spend the week giving 100%, all of the time, learning to focus and concentrate” under the pressure of producing a new show in just 7 days.
Each day is packed with a combination of music and dance rehearsals, vocal, sectional and choreography sessions, and community building projects to bring the nearly 80 individual performers together into one ensemble. Fatigue is already a factor, but even after obvious mistakes, the support and respect from directors, choreographers and the other performers is outstanding. In Bruch-Anderson’s words, “Everyone is learning everything together. There isn’t any judging or criticism, only support and assistance.”
For Saturday’s finale performance, the campers will perform four works. They will open the program with Sly and the Family Stone’s Dance to the Music, followed by the Glee feature What Makes You Beautiful. They will then present Scott Alan’s Watch Me Soar before concluding the program with another Glee feature, the 2012 #1 pop hit by Kelly Clarkson, Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).
The 2013 Gustavus Show Choir Camp finale performance begins at 1:00 p.m., Saturday, July 20, in the Gustavus Student Center’s Alumni Hall. The event is free and the public is cordially invited to attend.
For the members of the ensemble, the finale will be bittersweet as they conclude a hard week’s work at building a performance ensemble from 77 strangers whose single connection a week ago was a love of singing and dancing, and say goodbye. They may leave the camp, but they will take what they’ve learned during the week and bring it to their high school show choirs and directors.
For the seniors, it’s time to make college choices or decide what other paths their futures hold for them. Whatever those futures will be, after these 7 days they will never again listen to the 1968 classic by Sly and the Family Stone in the same way. Wherever they go and whenever they hear Dance to the Music, they won’t have any choice. They’ll remember. And they’ll dance.