Darlington School: Private Boarding School in Georgia Through the Eyes of a Tiger: An Interview with Mrs. Camp
Darlington School: Private Boarding School in Rome, GA
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Through the Eyes of a Tiger: An Interview with Mrs. Camp

Krystyna Virkler | February 11, 2015 | 674 views

Annie Camp has been a member of the fine arts faculty since 2006. She holds a B.M. and M.M. from The Juilliard School in New York where she was a student of Leonard Rose and Lorne Munroe. She was previously cellist for LYRA String Quartet, Dal Segno Piano Trio, Da Capo String Quartet, and the all-string jazz ensemble Jazz a Cordes of New York City. Camp played with the Alabama Symphony for seven years and has performed with the Atlanta Symphony, Greenville Symphony, Atlanta Opera, Atlanta Ballet, and Atlanta Chamber Orchestra. She has performed as a soloist with Lee University Chamber Orchestra, DeKalb Community Orchestra and Rome Symphony Orchestra, and currently performs with Rome Symphony Orchestra and Chattanooga Symphony and Opera. She holds a teaching certificate from the New York School for Strings, studying with Louise Behrend, a pupil of the renowned Shinichi Suzuki. Camp implemented her own original string program in the New York Public School System through Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. She also studied techniques in implementing our current string method with one of the authors, Robert Gillespie, in a GMEA-sponsored workshop. She and her husband Will, director of instrumental programs at Darlington, have four children.

When and how did you become interested in music?
I became interested in music when I was very little. Both my parents played musical instruments. My dad is a minister by vocation but he played bassoon in the community orchestra and played his own jazz compositions on the piano every spare moment he could find, and my mom played viola. They played records and the radio constantly and talked about the different musical pieces with us kids. My mom used to play a game with me to see if I could guess the composer. Back then I really didn't know what I was doing at all! But we had fun together.

What instruments do you play and which one would you consider your favorite to play?
I play all of the string instruments and the piano but of course the cello is my absolute favorite, and it's my specialty. All of us kids—there were six of us—were required to take two years of piano lessons and then we could choose another instrument after that. My mom played in a string quartet that would come over to our house to play together and when the cellist would take her cello out of the case I was absolutely mesmerized, so naturally I chose the cello. I still remember vividly the day I was given my first cello. I thought the wood grain was so pretty and the smell of the varnish was, and still is, such a pleasant part of working with the wooden string instruments. They are all handcrafted and hand-carved, and a lot of work goes into making them. The border all around the top has a decorative inlay called purfling, which is hard to do. String instruments have been around for centuries and have a long tradition; in fact the violin can be found deep in the history of many cultures all over the world.

Did you always aspire to teach music?
I taught cello lessons when I was still in high school, and continued to teach cello lessons all through my college years as well. I didn't discover the classroom string environment until I had already graduated. I was "gigging" in New York, and a colleague, a very sweet friend of mine, kept trying to tell me about her teaching studies at the New York School for Strings, located in Hell's Kitchen at the time. I humored her and listened to her stories, but never thought much of it. She would say, "You really should check it out," but I didn't pay any attention. One day I finally heard her, and called them. I went right over and loved it, and signed up. They taught me very specific methods for teaching and gave me my first coaching classes. I sat in on many classes taught by the director of the school, Louise Behrends, who studied with none other than Shinichi Suzuki in Japan! She was a fountain of teaching knowledge. I don't even think I truly appreciated her wisdom at the time. It was during my two years studying there that I realized how much I love teaching and decided to make developing strings programs my passion. I launched two programs while in New York and then came to this area and began this one at Darlington.

What is your favorite part about teaching music?
My very favorite part about teaching music is the life-changing effect it has on a student. I really enjoy igniting a love of music and of playing music in students. Watching them grow in their appreciation is very satisfying. I feel like I make a difference in the lives of others. Music isn't just an "extra," it feeds your soul!  And music isn't just for professionals, it's for everybody.

How would you describe your experience at The Juilliard School?
Juilliard was a great place. It was a real eye-opener for me as a Georgia girl to go to the Big Apple and get to rub shoulders with all of the talented young musicians that flock there. It's a huge musical scene and on any given evening there's always something happening, someone performing. Juilliard is in Lincoln Center, the heart of everything. I went to jazz clubs in the Village to hear great jazz musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, who I actually played with, Avery Fisher Hall where I experienced famous touring artists like Itzhak Perlman, saw plays on Broadway and off-Broadway, great operas at the "Met," attended Yankee games, had meals of every imaginable ethnic background, including street hot dogs—Chinatown, Little Italy, Little India, Greek food in Astoria. There was truly something for every taste, whether it was music, food, visual art, dance, or drama. The kids I went to school with at Juilliard were training to be part of the next generation of artists. It was an exciting time for me and a real privilege. I waited a lot of tables while I was there, as did many of my colleagues, and dealt with the public on a nose-to-nose level, so to speak. That certainly kept it real.

What was it like to learn from great musicians like Leonard Rose or Lorne Munroe while attending The Juilliard School? 
Juilliard's faculty is a smorgasbord of great names, many of whom kept up rigorous touring schedules while still maintaining a studio at the school. They had real-life concert experience to share with us. I watched many brilliant teachers give priceless music lessons. They could hear a student play and fix things you couldn't even see. They could tell what set of muscles you were using in your bow arm, and how to warm up the sound by changing the angle of your elbow. It was humbling, and enlightening. Leonard Rose would teach with his cello in hand, and when he played a simple demonstration, that famous sound he had would flow from his cello and just melt your face. Lorne Munroe, who had 12 children by the way, had to have a house specially built for his family in Philadelphia, and they couldn't move to New York because they didn't want to leave that house—he was brilliant in the various "gold nuggets" he would come up with. You'd play for him and he wouldn't say anything for awhile and then he'd say something like, "You could fix that shift if you stop focusing on it and focus on the note before the shift and just stabilize your hand," and you'd try it and voilà, problem solved. He gave me a lot of gold nuggets that I teach from today.

What would you say to students that are interested in learning an instrument?
I encourage music students to stick with it, enjoy the ride but drive toward the horizon. In music, when you're working to master an instrument, just like any other endeavor, there are good days and bad days, but if you stay in the game, there are very rich rewards and memories to be made. I just traveled to Alpharetta this past weekend with seven eighth-graders to a GISA-sponsored string clinic. In just 24 hours, they were transformed! Those kids came back so pumped, so excited to learn more, and accomplished new levels. And so we are learning new skills and having fun getting better every week. That's what I like to see.