VVCA challenges community<br><i>Money needed for scholarship program to NAU Summer Music Camp</i>

VVN/Steve Ayers

Jai Rideout, a sophomore at Camp Verde High School, has attended NAU Summer Music Camp for the past two years.

"Once you get there, you meet other kids and start having a fun time. It's all about music," the 15-year-old Camp Verde High School sophomore says. "A whole new world opened up. I really enjoyed it. In 2004 I went back because I had such a great experience the first year. It was a blast."

Rideout isn't alone in his enthusiasm for this summer program.

Kari German of Camp Verde attended the camp in 1996 and 1997 based on recommendations from her band director and her brother, who had attended earlier sessions. She considers herself fortunate to have attended with the assistance of a partial scholarship for $250 through the Verde Valley Concert Association (VVCA).

"The camp built my confidence in my own ability," German offers. "It provided a great connection with other students."

At the camp, participants attend classes based on their chosen instrument. In German's case, she chose clarinet and voice. It turns out she was in the same voice master class as pop singer Michelle Branch. Now, German plays six instruments (piano, clarinet, trumpet, French horn, alto sax and flute), and is learning the guitar. In addition, she will perform and sing in Camp Verde's upcoming production of The Music Man.

"Music camp can open doors. It's a great experience for anyone of any level," German emphasizes. "It's a place that's enjoyable yet challenging and can help you grow as a musician. It's a different experience that many students in the Verde Valley wouldn't get to experience in their own school."

For this NAU student, music has played a vital role in her life. She has even studied the benefits that music can have on academic disciplines. She says music has helped her with self-discipline and motivation. German is currently student teaching third graders at Cottonwood Elementary School and expects to graduate from NAU on May 14.

"As a teacher now, I want to expose my students to music as much as I can."

Prior to attending the university, she says, the music camp provided a controlled college-like atmosphere that helped with her transition into college because she had experience residing in a dorm. The music camp also provided technical training and exposed her to performing with larger bands, an opportunity not available in high school.

Rideout agrees that options are limited for local music students.

"I felt the [high school] band was unpopular because not a lot of students were involved. I wasn't advancing learning music," explains Rideout, who has been playing the alto sax for six years and is a member of his high school's concert and jazz bands.

"When I went to band camp I saw and met so many other students. It helped me feel so much better about myself and improved my saxophone playing a whole lot."

This boost in self-confidence also prompted the teen to join the Cottonwood Community Band in January of this year. Prior to that he was a member of Sedona Community Band.

"I wouldn't have joined the bands if I hadn't gone to music camp," Rideout declares. "I wouldn't have been searching for something else to get into."

Rideout is quick to add that he plans to attend NAU Summer Music Camp again this year. Thanks to the VVCA and grant writer Patrick Gorlick, Rideout's dad, other youth can experience the same opportunity.

According to Gorlick, Verde Valley musicians are sheltered with little exposure to other student musicians and other students that are excelling academically.

"Living in a small rural community we have to be creative and often have to travel out of the community to support our children in their endeavors," he explains.

Gorlick approached the VVCA about sponsoring a scholarship program to send middle and high school musicians to NAU Summer Music Camp. It seems like a perfect match considering that for approximately 52 years, the VVCA has provided diverse professional performing artists to Verde Valley residents and promotes the knowledge and appreciation of the arts by contributing funding and educational opportunities to students.

The VVCA was quick to jump at Gorlick's idea.

"I think it will further their musical abilities," VVCA president Arlene Wright says of the camp. "If we can offer a tool that can be used to further their abilities, all the better for them."

As a result, the VVCA is challenging area residents and businesses to match nearly $8,500 in foundation requested grants to create a scholarship fund to send area students to the music camp.

"The way the grants have been structured," Wright explains, "we have to match the grant funds or return the money to the funding organizations. So, the challenge is on to take $8,500 in grant funds to create $17,000 for the VVCA NAU Music Camp Scholarship Program."

The cost to send a middle or high school musician to NAU Summer Music Camp is cost prohibitive for most Verde Valley residents. Students entering seventh, eighth or ninth grade attend Junior Camp and stay on campus for one week. The cost is $515, which includes lodging in NAU dormitories and meals.

Students entering 10th, 11th or 12th grade attend Senior Camp and stay for two weeks at a cost of $890.

"It's an incredible opportunity but as a parent it's a large chunk of money," Gorlick says.

The dates of NAU Summer Music Camp 2005 are Junior Camp, June 18-24, and Senior Camp, June 25-July 9. The challenge campaign will continue until mid-May when scholarship application forms will be made available to area students.

Last year more summer music campers came from the small towns of Avondale, Kingman, Kirkland, Page, Parker and Rio Rico than from the Verde Valley. Sadly, only two Camp Verde students and one from Cottonwood attended the senior camp, out of a total of approximately 300 campers. According to Program Coordinator Debra Owens of NAU Preparatory School/Summer Music Camp, senior campers came from all over Arizona as well as California, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Washington, Wyoming and Brazil.

Only one Clarkdale student attended last year's junior camp, out of a total of approximately 500 campers, Owens adds.

Gorlick and Wright hope those numbers will change through the creation of the VVCA NAU Music Camp Scholarship Program.

Tax-deductible contributions may be sent to the Verde Valley Concert Association at P.O. Box 26, Cottonwood, AZ 86326. If you have questions, call (928) 639-0636. For details about the camp, visit http://www.2.nau.edu/musiccamp

Donors making donations in the full amount of either a junior ($515) or senior camp ($890) registration will have the opportunity to give the scholarship a name of their choosing.

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