Every summer, hundreds of young musicians from all around the U.S. gather on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University to hone their skills at the nation’s second oldest music camp.
Many students attend the Stephen Collins Foster Music Camp throughout their middle school and high school years; others are following in the musical footsteps of their parents or grandparents. Both describe John Williams.
Now Williams, a junior euphonium player who’ll be attending his fourth Foster Camp this summer, wants his classmates at Jennings County High School in southeast Indiana to enjoy the same opportunity and help his school’s music program. He recently joined with the Jennings County Community Foundation to create a scholarship program with the hope of raising enough funds to support four band, four orchestra and four vocal scholarships. Those wishing to help can visit www.jenningsfoundation.net, click on “Make A Donation”, then “All Other Programs” and scroll down to “Foster Music Camp Scholarship Program.”
“Foster Camp has been very important to me,” Williams said. “It has helped me grow not only musically, but as an individual. I really enjoy meeting all the students from the other schools.”
For Williams, the Foster Camp roots run deep. His grandfather, two-time EKU graduate Tom Taylor, of North Vernon, Indiana, is a former graduate assistant for bands at Eastern and one-time band director at Model Laboratory School on the Richmond campus. Taylor also served as the Foster Camp administrative assistant 1972-74.
“Foster Camp enjoys an outstanding reputation,” Taylor said. “The facilities and faculty are fine. The campus is indeed beautiful, and all this is affordable.”
Founded in the midst of the Great Depression, EKU’s Foster Camp will mark its 81st season this summer. Only the famous Interlochen Music Camp in Michigan has a longer history. The Camp’s first director, in 1936, was Henri Schanbl, a former member of Kaiser Wilhelm’s personal band.
Taylor, who went on to a distinguished career in education, said he fondly remembers “the closeness of the music department family and all of the marching band rehearsals and performances. I remember moving from the old Hanger Field to the new stadium and the band trip to the Rice Bowl. With Foster Camp I remember most the trips to Bardstown to see ‘The Stephen Foster Story,’ as well as the closing ceremonies of camp. The closing ceremony is still particularly nice – watching strangers who came together to form a family who are preparing to say goodbye.”
Now his talented grandson is making his own memories.
“Foster Camp has been very, very good for John,” Taylor said. “He goes to a good high school and is part of a good music program. Still, when you bring together the Foster kids, you have a select group of individuals who, overall, have a higher level of skill and a greater focus on music than would exist in any one high school. This creates an atmosphere for rapid improvement and development.
“I have watched this inspiration from the Foster experience carry back to the local school, impacting not only John’s motivation in the music program, but also to his other studies,” Taylor added. “He has met kids – motivated kids – from other schools. He has had the experience of living in a dorm – of living on a university campus. He has found himself rooming with a stranger – on a floor full of strangers. All of this has been very important. While I appreciate the intrinsic musical development values of Foster, it is possible that the extrinsic non-musical experiences are of at least equal importance.”
For more information about EKU’s Foster Camp, visit fostercamp.org or call the EKU Department of Music, 859-622-3266.
Or just ask John Williams or Tom Taylor. They can tell you plenty.