PEMBROKE — “The Pink Panther made me who I am,” Megan Brinson said.
Brinson, 21, was referring Friday to the theme song for the television cartoon series. The senior at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke heard the viola part in the theme music while in high school.
“I had to learn it!” she said.
The television experience set Brinson on a musical career path that led her to being a counselor for UNCP’s first music camp.
Prospective and experienced musicians came to UNCP for the weeklong camp that started Monday. Classes brought UNCP students together with high school students from around North Carolina. The college students added their experience to classes for the high school campers, and UNCP Music Department faculty members added their knowledge.
Organizers say it’s a different sort of camp than those seen in public schools and larger universities because UNCP incorporates private instrument lessons, choral groups and individual attention that larger schools can’t match.
Meggan Hollis, a marching band assistant and music librarian, helped create a similar program at UNC-Greensboro.
“They may have 1,000 students a week in there,” Hollis said. “We’re starting our first camp with just 13.
“… We knew that we wanted to give students a camp experience that they couldn’t get or afford at larger camps in the state,” Hollis said. “I worked at the Greensboro camp for eight years, and I borrowed and adapted their ideas for this camp.”
The UNCP faculty members and students involved in the program had high hopes, but didn’t know how it would go or be received.
“We’re offering the opportunity to those who want to learn,” said Jose’ Rivera, music education coordinator. “It’s a special experience to bring them together from different counties. It provides an opportunity for children to make music but can’t because of athletics, or Advanced Placement classes, or other issues. Some of the children want a deeper music experience than what they get in high school. We’re investing in the children.”
The campers arrived Monday with a wide range of skills and abilities. Campers learn basics in musical theory and history, but also how to combine their music into the final product as part of a team. Team-building skills are learned as all students take part in choir singing, experience life in a dorm, and bond with one another.
“The students learn notes and rhythms,” Rivera said. “But they also find introspection. It teaches them to draw from their experience and imagination.”
The 13 students brought their own style of learning and musical performance.
“They’re teaching us about musicianship, and how to improve,” said Elijah Gilbert, a saxophone student from Browns Summit. “We’re learning skills and tricks on instruments in private lessons, like new notes, or how to create a vibrato sound.”
Vocalists are given a chance to study various genres of music, ranging from 16th century English tunes to southern gospel.
“We’re learning three songs that contrast each other,” said Chadon Foreman, a Lumberton High School student. “We get the rhythms down, and learn different techniques for singing different types of songs. We don’t get that at our school. Sometimes the chorus at our school isn’t all that serious, but here they are prepared to sing.”
Foreman has been singing since she was 5 years old, and has performed in musicals such as “Hairspray” and “The Lion King.”
“My usual teacher is strict,” she said. “Here, I’ve gotten new exercises and a new perspective.”
The camp also has been a learning experience for instructors and counselors, Brinson said.
“We’re figuring out the camp, to make the week more well-rounded,” Brinson said. “We’re coming together to listen and relate.”
Trying to make a living as an artist is hard, she said.
“Being an artist is difficult, but it comes back to humanity,” Brinson said. “Music has a way to ignite things in us in a way that others can’t. It can be stressful as an artist to have bills to pay, but music is one of the most rewarding things you can ever do. I really love it. It has a way of touching … to be able to say that you can rein stress in, and make the world a better place, there’s value to that.”
Hollis wants the camp to grow. That can happen if organizers and instructors can send present campers home happy and better musicians and they tell their fellow musicians about the learning experience.
“All of them will go home with better techniques, and return home with more leadership,” Hollis said.