The sounds of summer - story article image
The sounds of summer
By Lanita Withers Goins, staff writer
Photography courtesy of UNCG Music Camp

For 30 years, students have flocked to UNCG to spend part of their summer vacation immersed in music

It was 1982 and Dr. John Locke, UNCG's newly hired director of bands, had his doubts about the program's viability. “Things were precariously slim when I got here,” he remembers. “There were three trumpet players. Three. We desperately needed to recruit some students.”

Not the easiest of tasks when two of the main enticements — facilities and scholarships — were lacking. But Locke had a plan and the encouragement of the dean who hired him: create a summer music camp, a weeklong experience that would not only deepen students' knowledge and love for music, but also introduce them to UNCG.

Fast forward three decades, and you can see the results of Locke's labor of love. Tens of thousands of students have spent part of their summer vacation on campus, making music and making friends. Many have chosen UNCG for college, whether they majored in music or not. Campers-turned-parents send their children to experience central North Carolina in the height of summer, embraced by humid warmth and melodic sounds. Others return to help and teach, paying forward their camp experience to a new generation of musicians.

UNCG's Summer Music Camp, touted as “America's Most Popular,” is celebrating its 30th year this summer the same way it marked its first so many years ago — cultivating, sustaining and nurturing a love of music.

The first camp — the first in any discipline at the university — had 350 campers. Locke spent his spring break driving to two, three, four schools a day, talking to band students and gathering addresses on 3x5 index cards so he could send a camp brochure to the students' parents.

In recent years, the camp has hosted 1,700-plus students over two weeks from all over the United States and around the world, with up to 1,000 more on waiting lists. Its success defies the odds. “During our 30 years of flourishing, many camps have diminished or gone out of business," Locke says. Even Google testifies to the popularity of the camp. Search for “summer music camp” and UNCG's music camp is the first, non-paid search result you'll get.

“It's had a huge impact on our image, our outreach and our recruitment," Locke says. “It helped put us on the map and kept us there.”

Page 1 of 1 Email