A Jennings County High School musician is leading a fundraising drive to help his fellow classmates attend the country’s second-oldest music camp.
John Williams, a junior who plays the euphonium, which resembles a small tuba, has attended the Stephen Collins Foster Music Camp at Eastern Kentucky University three times and plans to attend again this summer. The camp is designed to help middle and high school music students hone their talents. Williams wants other musicians from his school to be able to enjoy the experience.
Williams joined the Jennings County Community Foundation in an effort to create four band, four orchestra and four vocal scholarships for the camp. He is leading a fund drive to turn unwanted cars, trucks and vans into cash to support the scholarships.
“I just know how much Foster Camp has helped me as a musician and I want to share that with other musicians to help them, and also to help our school’s music program,” Williams said.
His grandfather, local businessman Tom Taylor, introduced Williams to the music camp. A graduate of Eastern Kentucky, Taylor was involved with the Foster Music Camp for many years before he encouraged his grandson to attend the camp. Taylor was a Foster Camp administrative assistant, a graduate assistant for bands at Eastern Kentucky and a band director at Model Laboratory School on Eastern Kentucky’s Richmond campus.
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to be away from home for two weeks the first year so I said I would go for just one week,” Williams said. “But as soon as I got there, I knew I had made a mistake and wished I was staying for the second week. Now I go for two weeks. It is amazing to be surrounded by other students who take their music seriously. The campus is great and I really enjoy meeting all the students from different schools.”
Students have the option of attending the camp for either one or two weeks every summer. The cost is about $400 for one week and about $700 for two, and includes housing, food, activities and individual lessons, said Carly A. Hale, administrative assistant with Eastern Kentucky’s music department. The lessons are taught by Eastern Kentucky professors, staff and advanced students.
Middle and high school students with at least one year of experience with their chosen musical instruments are eligible to attend the camp. Most musical instruments are accepted, although not guitar at this time, Hale said.
“Foster Camp has been very good for John,” Taylor said. “He goes to a good high school and is part of a good music program. Still, when you bring together the Foster kids, you have a select group of individuals who, overall, have a higher level of skill and a greater focus on music than would exist in any one high school. This creates an atmosphere for rapid improvement and development.”
Taylor added that he thinks the camp helped Williams’ grades improve, and that the camp could have similar benefits for other students.
To fund the 12 music scholarships, Williams has established an organization through the Jennings County Community Foundation that will tow unwanted vehicles away, give the donors documentation for a tax write-off and and sell the vehicles to salvage yards. After expenses are paid, the money collected for the sale of the vehicles will be placed into a fund to be dispersed to help pay for camp fees.
“We decided to get involved with this because it is a great idea,” said Barbara Shaw, executive director of the Jennings County Community Foundation. “The foundation will do the paperwork and oversee the disbursement of the money.”
The foundation also will accept monetary donations for the scholarship fund drive, Shaw said.
Anyone wishing to donate a vehicle can call the WJCP radio station at 812-346-7505 or 812-346-9527, or call the the Jennings County Community Foundation at 812-346-5553, or go online at jenningsfoundation.net.
To learn more about the Stephen Collins Foster Music Camp, go online at fostercamp.org or call the Eastern Kentucky Department of Music at 859-622-3266.