Rio concludes annual band camps

RIO GRANDE, Ohio – Each summer the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College campus transforms into a musical retreat, with high school band camps from throughout the region ascending on the rolling hills of southeastern Ohio.

The whimsical takeover began July 6 with the bands from Northridge and Middletown high schools and concludes Friday, Aug. 8 with bands from West Union, Franklin Heights, Warren Local and McNichols concluding their weeklong camp.

More than 1,400 campers from 18 high schools called Rio Grande home this summer. Bands from Celina, Franklin Heights, Lancaster, Liberty Union, Licking Valley, Maysville, McNichols, Middletown-Madison, Millersport, Northridge, Point Pleasant, Tipp City, Tri-Valley, Waynesville, Warren Local, West Union and Zane Trace high schools participated in summer camp at Rio Grande.

“Rio is a great place to come because it offers all the amenities of a college campus, yet its far enough away so there aren’t any distractions,” Lancaster High School Band Director Ben Factor said. “It’s that small campus atmosphere; everything we need is within walking distance.”

Factor is preparing for his first year as band director at Lancaster, but previously brought his Liberty Union High School band to Rio Grande the previous seven summers.

Lancaster brought 107 students with 12 instructors. The weeklong camp allows bands to install its performance program for the upcoming year.

“It’s the one week when we have everyone here without family or vacation conflicts,” Factor said. “We start things here and typically get up to 2/3 of the show finished while we’re here.”

The largest single band this year belonged to Celina High School, which brought 152 campers the week of July 20. One of four bands on campus that week, Rio was host to nearly 400 students.

The annual band camp tradition is the work of University of Rio Grande Assistant Professor of Music Gary Stewart.

“I live on campus 24 hours a day to assist with planning shows, marching fundamentals and basically helping new directors to make their first year a successful experience,” Stewart said. “I taught high school band for 34 years and had a competitive marching band all that time. I am also an Ohio Music Educators Adjudicator for Marching Bands and know what is expected with the shows we see all fall season.”

Throughout each day during the band camp season, visitors to the Rio Grande campus can enjoy full performances, as well as sectionals for instrumental groupings sprinkled about campus.

“We feel we have the run of the campus, which is nice,” Middletown-Madison High School Band Director Shawn Lenney said. “I have also worked with Gary Stewart for years and trust that he will help me provide a positive experience for my students. He really goes above and beyond the call of duty for us.”