LAKE MURRAY — For the 15th consecutive year, students gathered at Lake Murray to hone their musical abilities.
The Red River Drum and Auxiliary Camp filled Lake Murray State Park with the sounds of music this week, with the camp celebrating its 15th year. The camp has been at the state park for the last several years, but this year not only marked a special numeric milestone, but signified a new era in the camp.
“In our 15th year we get to celebrate with this great facility at Lake Murray,” Jack Francis, co-director of the camp, said during an interview in the lobby of the new Lake Murray Lodge, which opened its doors earlier this year. “What better way to celebrate than to have it with this new lodge.”
The camp welcomes students from across the state to refine their skills, establish new friendships and to work on fundamental elements of music and team performance. Students in grades seventh to 12th can participate in the weeklong camp. Students choose a focus area for the camp, which includes clinics on drum lines, color guard or being a drum major.
“We’re learning the basics of becoming a drum major,” Brianna Brown, an Ardmore High School junior and first-time camper, said. “It’s showing us where to start and then take your own spin on it and take it back to your own band and learn how to teach those in your own band.”
Brown, working with the drum majors, said the camp provides a unique environment to learn. The sessions are often conducted on the beachfront of the lake, in the shade of trees surrounding the Lake Murray cabins and in the area near the new facility. Brown said the instructors provide the tools of success to the students, which they can then adapt for their own programs.
“I think I can take a lot that I’ve learned back,” Brown said. “I can take things I’ve learned here and use them so I’m definitely going to bring back a lot.”
While for students like Brown the experience is new, other students have spent years at the camp.
“It’s really cool seeing how I grow every year,” Abigail Boatmun, Durant High School junior and member of the drum line, said. “I’m always kind of impressed with myself — like one year I was in (drum) line three and now I’m in (drum) line one so it’s kind of motivating seeing how you get better.”
The camp draws in students from across Oklahoma and North Texas, creating a diverse group of students that can network, develop relationships and give advice to one another throughout the camp.
“In color guard we’re a family,” Josie Nevills, Lindsay High School junior and color guard member, said. “You see them (other campers) at a competition and you’re like ‘I know you, you’re my family.’ It’s a bonding time, it’s not just a time to learn.”
Francis said the camp hasn’t been without its challenges this year. Band programs across the state are facing potential budget cuts and other obstacles the camp faced made making the camp affordable for students challenging.
Francis said the directors of the camp anticipated a need to increase the price, with the new lodge being complete, which translated to roughly 70 less students being able to attend the camp. Francis said they’ve already begun planning ways to reduce the price in order to accommodate for the largest number of students possible.
“It’s all about the kids,” Francis said. “It’s amazing for the kids. Seeing kids getting better every year, that’s what it’s all about, and teaching these kids life lessons.”
The camp will wrap up at 12 p.m. Friday at Lake Murray with a final performance that shows off each individual division’s work. The entire camp will also perform a piece together.
“I would love for people to just come out and support these kids and their future at this wonderful resort,” Francis said.