The campers rise for breakfast at 7 a.m. Rehearsals begin at 8. The students bounce between music theory class, full orchestra practice, individual lessons and ensemble rehearsals throughout the day, wrapping up around 6 p.m.
Then they transition into dinner and recreation time, before falling asleep in their dorm rooms around 10 p.m. and waking up to repeat the packed schedule the next morning.
Such is a standard day at the Golden Isles Youth Orchestra’s annual summer camp, at which high school musicians learn from professional performers and develop their musical skills during a week of intense practice.
“They bring in professionals who have jobs either as freelance musicians or playing for orchestras, or both, and they come in and they actually teach us etiquette about orchestra and just help us get better,” said Brianna Milks, a violinist and rising Glynn Academy senior who has attended the camp the past three years.
The camp, which began Sunday and will end Friday, takes over a residence hall at College of Coastal Georgia and other facilities on campus. The nearly 60 campers sleep in the dorms and eat on campus. Dorm rooms and study lounges are transformed into rehearsal spaces, where student groups squeeze together with their instruments and an instructor for practice sessions.
Dashing between it all and keeping the large affair organized is Suzanne Morrison, the camp’s director and general manager for GIYO.
Morrison has run the camp the past four years and has the operation down to a science. A detailed chart stays in her hand, showing the master plan for the daily schedule and map of camp activities. Snacks are made available at frequent intervals, instruments stay organized in her office and she regularly accounts for every student.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s always worth it by the time you get here and do it,” she said Tuesday. “And it’s so worth it by the time you get back to the school year, when these kids, they’ve improved and they’ve already got music in hand.”
Morrison is aided this year by four interns, music students from Jacksonville University, who help run the camp and organize a concert that will take place Thursday night. The campers learn musical pieces in three days before the show, which is free and open to the community and will be held at 7 p.m. in the Southeast Georgia Conference Center on campus.
“We’d love for people to come hear what we’re doing here,” Morrison said.
The professional instructors, who come from Jacksonville, Tampa, Savannah and Atlanta to teach at the camp, will perform in the show alongside the students.
“A lot of (the campers) just haven’t heard that caliber of musician,” Morrison said. “They are very good.”
The summer camp aims to prepare the students for their upcoming GIYO auditions later in the summer and for the shows they’ll put on throughout the year. The orchestra performs a show for donors in November, a winter concert and a spring concert every year.
The camp is supported by GIYO’s foundation and community donors, who annually provide money that funds the week of activities and lessons and creates scholarships for students who cannot afford camp costs.
“It costs us almost $800 a kid,” Morrison said. “The most any kid ever pays is $100. Some pay none … We have a big campaign that we run in the fall that supports this particular camp.”
This community support provides the campers with a unique and important opportunity to improve their skills with talented instructors, Morrison said.
“These kids love what they’re doing, and they’re being exposed to music they would never have been exposed to otherwise,” she said.