BEMIDJI — The rhythmic beats of drums and the resounding crash of cymbals permeated the Bemidji High School Music Room last week as part of the Lakes Area Drum Set Camp.
Making a return in person after two years of virtual camps, the five-day affair gives students the opportunity to learn and improve their skills as well as collaborate with other drummers and clinicians.
Most notably, the lakes region camp does it with 20 batsmen at the same time.
“There’s an element of playing in a band with 20 drum sets that’s unique,” camp director Ben Anderson said.
Sporting their earplugs and drumsticks, this year’s 18 middle and high school students begin each day with warm-ups followed by a review of drumming fundamentals. They then take some time to stretch before rehearsing their pieces, which will be performed during a final showcase on Friday.
Campers spend their lunch break watching YouTube videos of various professional drummers, after which it’s back to rehearsals.
The afternoon can also include visits from guest artists and the day concludes with a groove session where each camper has the opportunity to play a “drum fill”, or improvisational solo part, until what the campers end the session together.
“By then it’s already 4 p.m.,” camp director Eric Sundeen said. “It’s going very fast.”
Minnesota Drum Set Camps, an organization that oversees the Lakes Region camp as well as camps in Eden Prairie and Columbus, Ohio, held virtual camps in 2020 and 2021.
Traditionally, each camp was offered one week at a time, but the virtual option allowed all three camps to take place simultaneously.
“Virtual camp came with its own amenities. The kids could stay home and didn’t have to travel,” Anderson said. “You can mute and practice, and do it all at your own pace a bit more.”
Despite these benefits, an in-person camp seemed to be the preferred delivery method for students and principals.
“It’s much better to be back (in person) acoustically, put our earplugs on and go,” Anderson added.
The Lakes Region camp averages between 17 and 20 campers, although initial registration stopped at six for a while.
“Once the word got out, we were able to pick up where we left off,” Sundeen said. “I’m super pumped with that number (18), but we’d like to see it get bigger, maybe hire another member of staff. There is room to stretch out. »
The camp previously took place at Headwaters Music and Arts with their in-person return marking their transition to the BHS band room when numbers dictated the need.
“Going up to 30 or 40 kids, I think that would be very exciting,” Sundeen added. “We have the room now.”
Hoping to continue to increase camp enrollment, Anderson noted the pipeline that students go down from their first year at camp through their final drum fill.
“Over the years, it’s been interesting to see some campers come back three, four, five or six years. We even had two campers who became staff members,” Anderson detailed. “It’s been really fun for them to see their own future as they sit behind the drums thinking they’ll be ‘up there’ (in the front row) one day.”
The upper classes are intentionally placed in the first row, with the underclasses occupying the second and third rows.
“It makes young players feel less like people are watching them,” Sundeen said. “Older players, they probably feel cooler when people look at them.”
Although this year’s camp is made up entirely of students from Bemidji and the surrounding area, the adults have been campers before and the camp is open to anyone of any age as long as they are interested in drumming.
Sundeen’s ultimate goal is to enroll music teachers to learn alongside their students and better fulfill the camp’s mission.
“The reason this camp started is because teaching drums in public schools, many band managers just don’t have time to get into the fine detail,” Sundeen said.
Sundeen hopes for camper retention that will allow the lakes region camp to recruit renowned clinicians. He said JT Bates, a drummer for Taylor Swift, had visited the Eden Prairie camp in the past.
“The more kids we involve, the more options we have to get bigger clinicians,” Sundeen added. “Changing that every year makes (the camp) interesting for the kids.”
With drum sets made available for those who currently don’t have them, Anderson and Sundeen are looking to the future of camp by welcoming drummers – new and experienced – into the mix.
“Coming out of COVID, we were thinking a lot ‘just bring the kids back here. “We’d rather you come and get started, and maybe you’ll still want to buy your own drums after the week is over,” Anderson interrupted. “That might be a pattern we’ll continue in the future. “
More information can be found on the Minnesota Drum Set Camps Facebook page.