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Sonic Boom’s online band camp has unprecedented attendance with 900 students

(JACKSON, Miss.) — Last month, the Sonic Boom of the South’s virtual high school band camp had a record turnout with 900 student participants. This is the first year the free three-day camp was hosted online as a precautionary measure due to the coronavirus pandemic. Started in 2013, the camp aims to educate the secondary school student-musician and improve recruitment for the music program and university.

“Since its inception, it has helped with recruitment substantially while providing a quality (holistic) educational experience for the students and directors that attend,” said Dr. Roderick Little, director of bands. “During the camp, we offer not only the marching band component but also a dance component, concert band, jazz band and other chamber ensembles.”

Little explained that moving to the virtual platform was a way to keep potential students engaged during unprecedented times.

“We also saw this as a great opportunity to reach students who may not have been able to travel to JSU if we had our traditional summer camp, which increased our outreach efforts and allowed us to reach a broader audience,” Little said. “One of the important things to note is that our students hosted the classes and provided instruction for our (virtual) campers, which also highlights the wonderful student-musicians that we have in our program.”

Little credits Ramon Jackson, administrative assistant in the Department of Music, for originating the idea for the virtual camp. He further acknowledges Kevan Johnson, assistant band director and chief arranger, for organizing the event.

“The purpose of the virtual camp was to continuously engage all musicians (alumni, fans, supporters, prospective/current students) in musical approaches, marching and dance fundamentals,” Jackson explained. “These are skills that will help them develop and maintain leadership, musical growth and physical fitness and can be utilized in any band program.”

Jackson further shared that camp participants could sign up and select their desired sessions on the Boom’s website. Drum majors, J-Settes, and section leaders provided instruction, and each day, students were allowed to sharpen their abilities. There were also specialized courses for band directors, which was led by Little and Johnson.

“This was a rather unconventional way of outreach, but it was still an amazing opportunity to interact with middle and high school band students,” Johnson said. “It was also a chance to see our outstanding band students in their leadership and instruction elements.”

Johnson expressed his appreciation for being able to witness students having those “Aha, I get it,” moments, despite being online.

“We hope to keep these innovative ideas going so all of our students, fans, alumni and other constituents remain engaged with our program,” Little said.

Former Boom High School Band Camp Videos:

Sonic Boom’s online band camp has unprecedented attendance with 900 students. (Photo special to JSU) 
The Sonic Boom hosted its seventh annual band camp in June. It was free to middle and high school students. (Photo special to JSU)