Camp Students Culminate Week with Symphony Hall Performance

UMass Lowell Symphonic Band Camp performs at Symphony Hall in Boston. Image by Kevin Harkins
UMass Lowell's Symphonic Band Camp performs at Symphony Hall in Boston.

By Marlon Pitter

CeCe Allen loves playing the trumpet and performing with other musicians. The opportunity to develop her skills and improve as a performer is what brought her back to UMass Lowell's Mary Jo Leahey Symphonic Band Camp for the third year in a row for another music-intensive week with other student musicians from around the country.

“The biggest thing for me is that every time I come to camp, I know that by the end of the week, I will be better,” said Allen, a recent high school graduate from Woburn, Massachusetts, who will attend UMass Lowell in the fall to study biology.

After the students honed their craft through hours of rehearsals and classes each day, the weeklong overnight camp culminated in a performance at Symphony Hall in Boston on July 22 to commemorate the camp’s 25th anniversary.

The Symphony Hall performance, a first for Band Camp, generated a buzz among the students. 

“I'm so excited,” said Miqueas Pita, a second-year camp participant from Methuen, Massachusetts, who will attend Gordon College in the fall to study music education. “I know it'll be completely different being on stage, and I just can't wait.”

UMass President Marty Meehan, center, rehearsed with students in Durgin Hall in preparation for the Symphony Hall performance.

UMass President Marty Meehan ’78 joined the camp’s Symphony Hall performance of “J.F.K. in Memoriam” to read quotes from President John F. Kennedy. Meehan performed the piece, which was composed by James Curnow, with Band Camp several years ago during his tenure as UMass Lowell chancellor. To prepare for the Symphony Hall performance, Meehan came to campus and rehearsed with the student musicians.  

“It was great to come back to Durgin Hall and participate in the camp again,” he said. “President Kennedy and the Kennedy family were an inspiration to me growing up, and I'm happy to participate and perform the piece.”

Trumpet player and incoming first-year UMass Lowell student CeCe Allen.
While the camp participants – eighth-graders through high school seniors – may change from year to year, many of the camp staff members return year after year.  The instructors range from current UMass Lowell music students and faculty to band directors and music teachers in local school districts who come together to share their love of music and their expertise.

“The students have a great experience because that's what they're experiencing: people who love what they do,” says Band Camp executive director Deb Huber, who is the university’s director of instrumental music outreach and associate director of university bands.

Accomplished composer and trumpet player Rossano Galante, whose credits include orchestrated scores for films such as “Fantastic Four,” “The Wolverine” and “Charlie’s Angels,” served as artist-in-residence at the camp, teaching classes and working with the young musicians. Galante also performed with the students at Symphony Hall, including the debut of his composition “Midnight Ride,” a piece inspired by Paul Revere’s historic journey on horseback in April 1775. Huber commissioned the piece to commemorate Band Camp’s 25th anniversary.

Pita, who plans to become a band director, said the opportunity to learn from various music instructors will enrich his skills as a teacher.  

“Being able to come here and work with all of these different teachers and all these different professional musicians, it broadens my perspectives and makes me think of how I would do things differently in my own classroom. I get to see all of these different teaching styles and these different methods and skills being used,” he said.

Huber said the endowment from Mary Jo Leahey, a 1937 UMass Lowell graduate who was a beloved music teacher and philanthropist, was paramount in launching the program. Leahey remained involved with the camp until her death in 2011.

"Fun with Funk & Fusion" class taught by UML Adjunct Prof. Joe Casano.
“She was an ardent supporter of music, of children and of UMass Lowell,” Huber said. “When she was growing up, she really wanted to go to a music camp, but the cost was just too much. But in the back of her head was this opportunity to make a difference, and she chose to make a difference by investing in this camp.”

The camp did not operate in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it ran as a day camp at a reduced capacity in 2021. Despite these recent challenges, Huber said the program has rebounded and thrived due to the dedication of the staff.

“Having that persistence that we're so used to as musicians, always kind of working through difficult things, it just goes to show how important we think this camp is,” said Kevin Goddu ’16, ’17, a UML music education alumnus and member of the camp’s staff.

Huber said she hopes the camp sparks students’ musical passions for decades to come.

“I hope we continue to inspire students and give them a new perspective on what's possible in music and what's possible here at UMass Lowell,” she said.