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Posts Tagged ‘brass@wallowa lake’


Here’s The Boy, hauling his stuff to the car. He’s wearing his camp shirt–all the campers wear them the last day for the concert.

Brass camp is over for this year. The House Leroy and I make the two-and-change drive up to Wallowa Lake last Saturday to pick up The Boy. As I saw him walking across the meadow, lugging his tuba, sleeping bag, and duffle bag, it hit me how very fast he’s growing up, and how empty the house is without him in it. Having him home again feels like having my heart back. And yet, we will do this again next year, not only because he loves it, but because it offers him an opportunity to hone a skill, to make friends, to stretch, to play miniature golf, drive go-carts, and meet people who share his love of music.

He went electronically equipped this year–he took his Kindle and his 3DS. However, he says he didn’t spend much time with them–he was busy, and when he wasn’t busy he was having fun.

Camp wasn’t all about music, though–he reported that, during his stint in the kitchens, he learned about why deadheading plants is good for them (shout-out to the kitchen lady who told him that).

Here’s one of the cabins where the kids stay at music camp. Lessons are held in yurts, or in the meadow.

Here’s the lodge–and the family barbecue, held Saturday. Families can eat, then drive down to the town of Wallowa, where the concert is held at the Wallowa Elementary School.

And so we started the drive back. The camp is up at the far end of Wallowa Lake. The boy was full of lake factoids, some possibly true.

Here’s The Boy, posing with Random Stuff From the Back Seat–in this case a book, “Chemorella,” a book I am considering reviewing. The bald lady on the cover seems to have inspired him–he shaved his head last night.

The concert’s quite long–a couple hours–because each camper performs in three groups–a chamber group, an instrument-specific choir, and the massed ensemble. Sorry for the crummy pictures–I was working with ambient light, in a gym.

Here’s the whole group–there are too many kids to fit onto the stage, so they spill out onto the main floor. The music is amazing. If anybody has video or audio, I’d do a good deal to get a copy (or a link, if it’s posted).

For us, the trip to Wallowa involves two mountain ranges: These are the Wallowas.

The Wallowas again…

Between the Wallowas and the Blue Mountains (the second mountain range we must cross to get home) lies a high, fertile valley full of farms, fields, horses, cows, and lovely old barns. I would have pictures, but I fell asleep, which is how I prefer to navigate the twisting roads through the Blues.


Here’s Holst’s “Second Suite in F for Military Band.” This is played by a whole band–we we just heard the first movement, played by a tuba choir–amazing.


Here’s a YouTube clip of “Hornpipe,” from “Sea Sketches,” by Ian MacDonald. The part we heard starts at about the five minute mark.

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Actually, I feel a little bad about that title. The Boy plays the tuba, and though he can “oompa” with the best of them, he can also produce lovely, melting sounds that you feel in your bones. And in another week or so he’ll be making those sounds up at Brass Camp.

Last year we sort of stumbled through Brass Camp. This year, though, we’re old pro’s. It’s going to go a lot better (though it went great last year). I thought that, me being an old experienced Brass Camp mom this year, I’d write the post that I wish I’d seen last year for all the Brass Camp newbies who are where were just twelve short months ago.

1. Camp is held at Wallowa Lake. That’s high in the mountains–in an alpine climate. Nights and mornings are cold. Days can get warm enough for shorts. Pack for your child with that in mind. Layers work well–they can bundle up in the mornings, and shed clothing as the day warms. Be sure to include a waterproof (or resistant) jacket and plenty of warm socks.

2. The camp is well-run. Kids are kept busy, but there are activities and free time each afternoon. The Wallowa Lake Resort is an old one, with a number of the traditional “resort” amusements–horses and bikes to rent and ride, miniature golf, go-carts, and a little store that sells snacks (at grossly inflated prices). The camp also offers a selection of souvenir items that campers can buy. Last year I sent my camper with about $75 (the amusements are fun, but not cheap).

3. If you’re sending a gamer, consider letting them take along their favorite hand-held gaming device. There’s free time, and many of the games can be played by two or more people–it can be a way of making friends. Also, some of those little suckers take pretty good pictures. My son wished he’d had his, if only for that reason.

4. If your camper (or you) is going to need direct communication during the week, consider buying and sending along a pre-paid cell phone (or a regular one). While the camp does have a telephone and can receive emergency calls, that doesn’t cut it when homesickness strikes.

5. Speaking of which: If you’re concerned about how your camper might do that critical first night, consider getting a room at the resort, or in Joseph (which is just down the road). It’s a bit spendy, but it’s a lovely area, and it might help to bridge the gap.

6. Consider taking a few days to explore the area. There’s a fair amount of historic stuff there–Chief Joseph is buried in a small cemetery just beside the highway, for one thing. The lake is lovely and peaceful, too. And the fishing’s not bad, I’m told.

7. The last day there’s a barbecue, for which parents can pay. I suggest you do so–it’s fun, and it gives your kid a chance to sort of transition from camp. There’s also a concert. It’s about 45 minutes from camp to the concert hall, but it’s headed back toward civilization, so it’s all good. The concert is amazing–be sure you bring along some sort of recording device. I wish I had last year, and I’m definitely planning to this year.

That’s it for the moment–if I think of anything else I’ll add it in. Oh, one last thing: Brass Camp is an amazing opportunity. It not only will improve your kid’s music skills, it’ll open his or her eyes to a world of music that it’s difficult to find otherwise.

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Yesterday the House Leroy and I drove up through the Blue Mountains and into the Wallowas to Wallowa Lake to retrieve The Boy. It’s a good time of year for it; the fields down here in the valley are a patchwork of green, gold, and brown, but as we drove up into the Blues the fields turned to green meadows filled with wildflowers, and snowmelt streams still edge with icy lace poured down into the swollen rivers. As we reached the summit of the Blues snowbanks still lingered in shadows, and banks of daffodils bloomed by abandoned cabins.

This used to be a big area for logging, but since the industry basically folded years ago the only real industries are ranching, and in some places, tourism. People come here to go rafting, fishing, and hiking. Some come to pan for gold. We came to retrieve Patrick, The Boy, from Brass Camp.

Oregon is  a state of contrasts. We have the urban, civilized, and agricultural Willamette Valley corridor. We have the agricultural north central part of the state, where I live. And we have thousands of square miles of empty space divided into desert and forest. Traveling from my home in the agricultural north central part of the state up into the Wallowas is like going to another world. The very energy of the mountains is different.

As we drove I pursued my usual hobby of picking out houses I love. It’s become something of a joke on car trips. By now both Patrick and the House Leroy can pick out my houses for me, with some accuracy. But when I started picking out old farmhouses situated in meadows and log cabins tucked into the forests Leroy said, “Yeah, right..you, a woman alone living up here. You’d better learn how to shoot straight.”

Turns out Leroy was just remembering what I should have remembered from my childhood in the mountains: People who move to the backwoods in Oregon generally do it for a reason. Some, like me, just love the energy and solitude. Many do it because they Don’t Play Well With Others. Some even Run With Scissors. Living alone in what is essentially wilderness demands a certain set of skills–and a certain type of personality. If you don’t come with it, I suspect you acquire it. And in all that wilderness, there’s not enough civilization to knock the rough edges off. People who live in Oregon’s wild places have a Strong Flavor. For many that’s an unaquired Acquired Taste.

I thought of myself squatted by my front door, sighting down my rifle barrel at a troublesome neighbor come to steel my firewood, and while I didn’t stop picking out the houses I loved, I did stop speculating about possibly moving into one of them.

And then we were there, at the camp, and there was Patrick, walking toward me across the field between the lodge and the parking lot. He said hello, and then he fished his DS out of the back seat, lifted it in his hand, and said, “Going to go get some pictures…fond memories!” And he walked away.

And that set the tone for the rest of our time at the camp–he brought his stuff from his cabin, and put it into the car, then headed off for his tuba–and forgot to come back. I watched him wandering through the crowd by the lodge, talking to friends and snapping pictures. He started back toward the me, then turned around and went back for the forgotten tuba. We got it shoehorned into the trunk and then went to stand in line for the barbecue.

We ate our hotdogs, fruit chunks, potato salad, and jello sitting on the grass in the sun–and then he was off with his DS, talking to friends and shooting pictures. And then we started back through the mountains toward the auditorium where the last event of Brass Camp was scheduled–a concert.

We parked the car, got out the tuba, and Patrick disappeared with it. I went into the auditorium and found a seat. Parents and family began to stream in and fill the other chairs. By the time the camp director welcomed us the room was full.

The concert began. A five-piece group. A nine-piece group. A stageful of trombones. A stageful of trumpets. The music was incredible. I sat there listening to the bright, clear notes of the trombones and trumpets, the smooth mellow notes of the horns, and then, at last, the deep, velvety tones of the tubas.

There were a lot of them, and they came in different sizes. When Patrick started taking tuba lessons I had thought they were pretty much limited to marching bands and comedy music. Over the years I have come to appreciate the finer  points of the instrument as I listened to him play, and compete in musical festivals. Even so, though, yesterday was a revelation. There were too many tubas to put on the stage, so the director had us help set up chairs and music stands on the main floor. Eighteen of them. And then the tubas came in. I have grown used to seeing Patrick tower of the rest of the band. Yesterday I saw him in a line with ten other tuba players–and every one of those boys was huge. It was like looking at the Defensive Linemen of music.

Then the second row came in. These were the baby tuba players–or, rather, the euphonium players. Euphoniums look like baby tubas. The conductor lifted his hands, and the band began to play. It sounded like velvet, like thunder. It was music to be felt, not just heard. Tuba ensembles demand a response, and it comes from deep in your bones.

When they finished there was a moment of silence as we in the audience caught our breath, and then a storm of clapping. It was more than just fond parents applauding their children’s efforts–it was the just due for an incredible performance. And it happened in a week.

I’m not a great one for promoting products here, or even for offering advice. This is more my thinking place. But I’ve had a week to think about this, and watching Patrick at the camp yesterday, (Patrick, who started the camp feeling homesick, but who finished with “fond memories”), followed by that amazing concert has convinced me it’s time to do both: If you have a child who longs to make his or her mark on the world, suggest band. And if you possibly can, send your child to Music Camps @ Wallowa Lake.

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