Vol. 19, No. 38

Aug. 24, 2000

Marching Band director shares expertise at camp

Sarver, HeideHeidi Sarver, director of UD's Marching Band, didn't spend her summer relaxing at the beaches or on an extended vacation–this avid drill designer participated in a traveling boot camp of sorts, lending a hand at the nationally renowned George N. Parks Drum Major Academy.

From June to August, the academy traveled to 11 states, preparing high school students to lead their respective bands. Sarver's responsibilities included assigning teams of instructors to each location and managing payroll for the entire staff, in addition to teaching the brass and woodwinds sections at the University of Massachusetts location. Sarver is a lead clinician for the company, running many of the camps herself.

High school musicians from around the country attended the academy, which teaches the leadership, technical and communication skills necessary to be a successful drum major. Sarver was in charge of staffing the series of camps, that reach more than 3,000 high school students each summer.

"We pull instructors that we know from the areas where the camps are held, and we have a permanent personnel that covers all of the camps," she said. "Our staff is a combination of people from around the country, but every single person was a drum major either in high school or in college, and 90 percent of them are teachers and band directors."

The academy not only grooms the musicians for high school success, its training extends into collegiate-level playing as well. According to Sarver, more than 62 members of UD's Marching Band attended the summer academy at some point in their high school careers.

"We have tracked the progress of some kids, and they have done extremely well," she said, adding that many students return after they graduate to help with the camp.

Sarver connected with the organization in 1985, when the camp organizer George Parks, a long-time family friend, asked her to lend a hand in his fledgling organization.

"I had known George long before I joined the academy. He was my drum major at the Reading Buccaneers Drum and Bugle Corps, and eventually my college band director at UMass," she said. "The Academy really started as a 'mom and pop' organization. George just wanted to teach drum majors, and, when it started, there were only three camps in the summer. It just kind of took off from there. The academy is still small--there's no question about that, but the level of notoriety has grown considerably."

According to Sarver, the close relationship among the instructors makes the camp run very smoothly. Because everyone truly wants to be there, she said, the activities of the four-day camp are highly effective.

"We spend 100 percent of the time giving them hands-on teaching and classroom instruction," she said. "They learn to develop their own personal marching, conducting and teaching skills so they can be a set of eyes for their band director when they get back to school."

The musicians also review their peers. Each person is videotaped three times during the camp. The academy also involves small competitions in which the musicians have to design and set up their own routines, and mini-exams are given each day on the guideline and procedure materials passed out in the classrooms.

In teaching the young musicians the leadership and communication skills to effectively lead their peers, Sarver said she and the rest of the staff help the students learn how to handle different situations. They need to be able to separate friendships from the job and how to deal with peers who are different from them.

"Besides all of the technical skills taught at the academy," Sarver said, "the musicians are able to gain an appreciation for their position and be able to handle the responsibility that title carries."

–Laura Overturf