Local music camp scores first-year success

The halls were alive with the sound of music this week as Bravissimo! Music and Arts Camp took over Hood River Valley High School.

The school walls reverberated with music from trumpets, drums, clarinets, flutes, saxophones and voices each morning as more than 60 students in 6th through 9th grade advanced their skills with the help of instructors from around the Gorge and Portland.

“Horns up, sit up straight, elbows out,” said Jason Weaver to his seven trumpet proteges practicing in a room off the commons. “We want a nice, beautiful round sound.”

In another room BJ Thomas, head band director at The Dalles High School, led three students and two volunteer helpers in a percussion session.

“It’s going to get a bit loud in here,” he said before the group launched into a high energy, foot-stomping jam. His baseball hat said “Drum Guy,” but all his students — even the ones new to the instruments — seemed to be drum guys and gals.

The camp was instigated by Hood River Valley High School music director Mark Steighner, Joan Yasui Emerson and Community Education director Mike Schend who, at mid-week, were pleased with the way things were going for Bravissimo’s inaugural year.

“The instructors are doing a really good job,” Steighner said. “They’re all young and enthusiastic. And there’s a lot of variety. The kids are getting a lot of different experiences for sure.”

Campers spent their mornings in two sessions of instrumental learning with their chosen instrument. Steighner also taught a voice session. After a break for lunch and a noon-time performance by invited guests — ranging from Jesse Berdine of Oregon Ballet Theatre to the drumming powerhouse Portland Taiko — campers rotated around a series of “enrichment” workshops highlighting various arts activities.

Seth Dunlap, 15, came to the camp each day from Carson, Wash. He spent his mornings learning saxophone from instructor Erik Steighner, but enjoyed the afternoon art sessions almost as much.

“It’s fun getting to try out more things,” he said.

Brynden Rawdin Morris of Hood River had similar sentiments.

“I picked percussion because I’ve been wanting to learn drums for a while,” he said after his jam session with “Drum Guy.”

“He’s a good teacher,” Brynden said of Thomas. “We all have our own level and he helps us.” The homeschooled, soon-to-be 9th-grader also liked the afternoon enrichment sessions. And to top off all that enriching soul food, there was one more plus at Bravissimo this week.

“Good snacks,” Rawdin Morris said, munching on a brownie at lunch.

The camp concluded Friday with a final performance by the students.

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