Summer Band Camp Teaches Young Musicians to Think on Their Feet
CROMWELL - The chorus is about halfway through a set that includes the classic “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and the pop song “Stitches”, and Cromwell High School Principal Fran DiFiore can’t believe what she’s hearing.

       “They’re not even in high school,” says an amazed DiFiore, as a line of vocalists fire off a highlight reel of pitch perfect solos.

       In fact, they range between third and eighth grade, some had little to no musical experience, and the entire concert-which featured the chorus, a concert band, and a jazz band segment-came together in less than a month.

       This is the Cromwell Music Camp-a brainchild of High School Music Director Raymond Sinclair, who implemented it successfully in other districts he’s worked at. The 52 students rehearse from 9 a.m. to noon, under the guidance of around 30 high school aged counselors and middle school choral teacher Karli DeAngelo.

       “The idea is to get kids to improve so that when they get to the high school, they’re better,” Sinclair said. “It’s kind of like how football has preseason.”

       But unlike football, Sinclair never expected band camp to be this popular-yet, anyway.

       “First year for a camp, you’re lucky to get 20, 30 kids,” he said after the show.

       And he hopes to make it even bigger as the camp-hosted by Parks and Recreation-continues from year to year.

       “We’re hoping that next summer, it grows to over a hundred kids,” Sinclair said.

       After the chorus wrapped up, Sinclair and the concert band took the stage with a diverse set-“Grand Old Flag”, “Groovy”, and a compilation of Disney tracks. The jazz band came next, with “Lost” by Coldplay, and a series of improvised saxophone solos over “Saxes with Attitude”.

       “Everybody did some experimentation with improv,” Sinclair told the audience. “It’s tough-you’re making things up with chords as you go. There’s a lot of theory in that.”