Mary Jo Leahy Symphonic Camp Celebrates 15th Year
By Julia Gavin
For the 15th summer, UMass Lowell’s Mary Jo Leahy Symphonic Band Camp will be held on campus. The weeklong music immersion program will run July 17 to 23, culminating in a world-premiere concert performed by the students on Saturday, July 23 at noon in Durgin Hall.
For the second time, Executive Director Deb Huber has commissioned an original piece to be performed, an opportunity the students enjoyed in the past.
“I have commissioned composer Robert W. Smith to write a work based on the life of a childhood hero of mine, pilot Amelia Earhart, born July 24. The world premiere of this new work will take place July 23 with our camp Concert Band performing the piece,” says Huber.
Leading to this performance, students in grades 8-12 from across the nation will gather at the camp to learn from many UMass Lowell faculty members, alumni, students and visiting instructors.
The program is an excellent opportunity for UMass Lowell student instructors, says Huber.
"UMass Lowell music students, our future music educators, have an opportunity to work in the program, gaining practical knowledge and real-world skills through this experience," she says.
From Conducting to Sound Recording Technology
The Symphonic Band Camp also offers prospective students a close look at UMass Lowell’s expansive music program. Over the course of the week, students are exposed to several instruments, various performance styles and special classes — including conducting and an introduction to sound recording technology, which is a UMass Lowell specialty. Students also get an early taste of college life while living with their peers in Concordia Hall.
Roughly 12 percent of the hundreds of previous campers have later chosen to attend UMass Lowell, according to Huber.
“Quite a number of the students become music majors but others enroll in majors such as engineering, biology, psychology, criminal justice and physics,” she says.
Commitment to Music Education
Former music teacher and longtime supporter of music education, UMass Lowell alumna Mary Jo Leahy ’37 has endowed the program, ensuring its ability to expose new students to the possibilities of music for years to come. The University has recognized the strength of the program as well as Leahy’s contributions, honoring her with the Circle of Distinction Award and an Honorary Doctoral degree.
“Her strong desire to support music and provide opportunities for young musicians to actively discover opportunities in music has been a constant,” Huber says. “Our vision has coincided from the start, and at age 95, Mary Jo is still actively involved in our discussions about the program.”
Huber says she never tires of watching campers develop as musicians over the course of the week.
"The students’ personal growth during the course of the week is exponential," says Huber. "My favorite part of the camp is seeing and hearing this take place — inspiring young musicians and knowing that our program has truly made a difference.”
For more information on the camp, including registration which is open until July 1, please visit the program's website.