Thursday, September 7, 2006

Burton Music Camp

Those of you who have been reading for a while know that I have spent many a July at camp. Alec and I are one of seven married couples who met working there, and it has meaningful in my life in so many ways. Before I went for the first time as a painfully shy 10-year-old camper, I felt like being involved in music at the level I was made me a freak. I had never been around other kids who practiced their instruments, or who wanted to be musicians or music teachers. I worked there from the ages of 17 to 29, and I each summer I saw shy kids who were probably seen as "geeks" in their regular lives making friends and being accepted by their peers, and coming out of their shells in so many wonderful ways. It has changed thousands of kids' lives for the better. I owe so much to my time spent there. In fact, when I was first thinking about trying singing, I was completely terrified of singing alone in front of people. Hiding behind a giant grand piano is completely different than standing alone, facing your audience head on. That summer, I was asked to teach a section of the choir at camp, which required me to sing in front of lots of people everyday. It stretched my boundaries, and by the end of the summer I had no trepidation about it at all. I started taking voice lessons shortly thereafter. Camp has been a constant through the years of my life that were the most filled with change and uncertainty.

Barbara and Neal Porter started Burton Music Camp 34 years ago, and everything about it was Neal's brainchild. His philosophy of a non-competitive, accepting musical atmosphere and individualized attention from trained music educators is unparalleled in any music camp I have seen elsewhere. For all 34 years, they have had an agreement with the same site. Last week, that site decided not to renew the Porters' contract to run music camp there. On Tuesday, I helped them move their music library, instruments, and other things off the site and in to their basement. I am grieving as surely as if I had lost a loved one, and I'm certainly not the only one. I am alternately furious and incredibly sad, and I've found myself bursting in to tears at the drop of a hat for the last few days. Perhaps the biggest slap in the face is that the site intends to run music camp, using the Porters' camp as a model, under the same name, without them. This is their legal right, as the Porters worked, technically, as employees of the camp, never filing for non-profit status of their own. However, it is heart-breaking, especially because nobody at the site knows the first thing about running a music camp. As for the Porters, they are looking for another site, which is a challenge to say the least, but I have to believe that what they have worked for is too special for it not to live on, and there is a perfect site out there somewhere for them. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers, and if you know of any great camps in Washington or Oregon, pass on the word!


Ariadne said...

*sweet tears* = I know how you feel!

It says alot (of good things) about you that you feel "at home" with these wonderful people and so connected to this wonderful place. I hope you and they can find and make another equally awesome, welcoming space.

ps I read you(r blog) often, but don't often know what to say as a comment. You're such a amazing and lovely, lovely human being and I hope I get to meet you in person and hear you sing sometime soon.

Hugs through the tears from the other coast,

Anonymous said...

WOW. I've been sending students to Burton for years but didn't know this.

Tell them to look into Camp Casey on Whidby Island. It is beautiful there. They might check with the chair of the music department at SPU, since Casey is connected to SPu.