Dietz Music and Bellevue West High School wrapped up the first year of the Yamaha Sounds of Summer Percussion Camp June 5.

The camp, which is located in many parts of the U.S., started in 1984 to teach students in grades seven through 12 about percussion and introduce them to a world of music.

Yamaha provides artists to assist in teaching and this year Jon Weber of Michigan State University came to assist with teaching students.

“The ability to have a clinician of that quality and talent to come in is super exciting,” said Marques Eckhoff, co-band director at West.

“Any chance I get to learn from him and my kids learn from him is really something I love.”

Yamaha’s expectation for the first Sounds of Summer camp is to register 30 kids, Eckhoff said, and this year 55 kids registered.

“We’re pretty excited that we blew that out of the water,” he said.

Eckhoff said he’s been excited to host a Sounds of Summer camp since he attended as a kid in 1994.

“It was life-changing,” he said. “There’s a lot of schools in this area that don’t have the means or the funds to have a full-time percussion director.”

After the two-day camp at the school, Eckhoff said he wants students to continue playing and each participant gets a book with step by step exercises to do just that.

“The goal is to get that in their hands so that way they can go populate the percussion community,” he said.

Despite being a camp for percussion students, Eckhoff said he, too, learned a lot from Weber and watching them play.

“It’s super fun for even us as a staff to sit down and enjoy,” he said.

The students bring their own instruments ranging from snare, tenor and bass drums, as well as pit percussion instruments such as the marimba.

Eckhoff split the students up based on their sections to practice different exercises, and then the group also learned a song together to perform on the second and final day of the camp.

“The kids are learning at their ability level so they can get more out of it,” Eckhoff said of sectioning the groups. “We all learned one thing that we played together, and each group kind of learned something a little more based on their ability level.”

Bettie Chambers, 12, said she came to the camp to learn more about percussion instruments.

“I thought it would be a lot of fun,” she said. “I enjoy music a lot.”

Eckhoff said he enjoys the camp because it teaches students so much in just two days.

“These camps are awesome because Yamaha is such a reputable company that it’s really nice for them to put this educational side out there,” he said. “Not a lot of companies do that, and I believe in that a lot.”

Eckhoff said he’s hoping to make the camp an annual event.

“I thought it was extremely successful,” he said. “We’ve already had kids asking if we’re going to do this next year. I’m hoping this is something we can sustain. I want to get bigger.”

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