Attend any band class and you’re likely to find flutes, oboes, clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, French horns, trombones, baritones, tubas, and many other types of instruments all playing in the same room. That’s what a band class is. But what you’re less likely to find is a professional flutist teaching students how to play the flute, which is exactly what Oak Hill Middle School Band Director Trent Henderson wanted to add to the experience of beginning band students.
Last year the Fast Start Band Camp was limited only to students of Oak Hill Middle. However, this year students in fourth, fifth, and sixth grade coming from both Midway Hills and Lakeview Academy were able to attend.
In Fast Start Band Camp, classes from across the county are divided into their specific instrument group to attend a vital opening workshop taught by professional players of that specific instrument.
“Most school systems in the state of Georgia start band in sixth grade,” Henderson said, “we have a unique opportunity in Baldwin County because we start band in third grade.” So, at the end of the day on Wednesday, August 24th, over one hundred students from Baldwin County Schools poured into the Oak Hill cafeteria with their individual instruments. Henderson and fellow band director Elise Allen brought in professionals of each instrument who would be able to give them a primer pertaining to their specific instrument.
"Most school systems in the state of Georgia start band in sixth grade, we have a unique opportunity in Baldwin County because we start band in third grade.”
“They learn all the things that they need to do,” Henderson said, “how to open the case, how to close the case, how to put the instrument together, how to take it apart, how to hold the instrument, and how to care for the instrument… Hopefully, we can get them to learn the first five notes.” This allows for students to get a basic knowledge of their instrument so that when they begin on “book one, page one” in their class, the band teacher doesn’t have to interrupt instruction in order to differentiate between what individual students need to do separately.
Henderson is only in his third year with Baldwin, but he’s been running Fast Start Music Camp for twenty-five years now, ever since he was a college student. The interest in it has always been high. “I always say, ‘it’s important in band that we do the same thing the same way at the same time’,” Henderson said, “and when you break these down into homogenous groups of just clarinets, or just tubas, or just trumpets, or just french horns, the instructor is able to concentrate on just that for a couple of hours. Then, when we put them in the group with all of the other instruments, it goes a little bit faster.”
Henderson said that Baldwin has been a wonderful district when it comes to providing resources for the arts, “we’re just very thankful for all the support that we get from the administration, the building principals, for allowing this to happen,” he said.
He also pointed out the fact that there were no percussion instruments in the Fast Start Band camp because Baldwin County is fortunate enough to have a full-time percussion instructor, Chris Ryles, who teaches primarily at the high school and middle school.
“Dr. (Noris) Price has been instrumental in making sure that the band program has the things they need so that our band program can grow,” Henderson added. Fast Start Band Camp is just another welcome addition to the slate of phenomenal programming that has helped Baldwin’s Music Program be nationally recognized as one of the best communities for music education for seven consecutive years.