Students hone their stringed instrument skills in summer camp
Posted on 08/07/2019
Students rehearsing on stage during Orchestra Camp

The 2019 summer Orchestra Camp offered students a chance to fine tune their stringed instrument skills. Hosted by Colgan High School, students in grades fourth through 12th spent two-weeks playing with an ensemble that matched their skill level as well as working on their personal growth as musicians.

The camp was founded in 2005 by Lake Ridge Middle School Orchestra teacher Karen Von Bernewitz and Reagan Middle School Orchestra teacher Tami Nelson with just 10 to 15 students in attendance. This year’s camp had 138 students from 51 schools. Von Bernewitz organized and directed the camp with the help of several PWCS orchestra teachers that included her daughter, Amy Ruhlman, who currently teaches at Hampton Middle School.

The camp offers students the chance to socialize and get-to-know fellow student musicians. In addition to sharpening their music skills, the camp is also made fun through the various theme days such as hat day, PJ day and favorite sports team day. “The first week we had an ice cream social snack day for the students. The second week we had doughnut day,” Von Bernewitz shared. “Along with the fun, music is played and new techniques are learned, and shared. Camp culminates with the End of Camp Concert, followed by a reception.”

When camp attendee and violin student De Run Coulson, a rising Potomac Middle School sixth-grader, was asked why he was attending camp, he answered frankly, “My dad said that I had to do something like this if I wanted to do robotics. But I want to keep playing the violin, too. I’ve been playing for about a year and a half.”

Student Nadia Magalaski had a wealth of scheduling conflicts, but the orchestra camp team found ways for her to participate, collaborate and hone her skills. She explained, “I’ve become kind of a mentor now. I’ve been helping all the groups with their pieces, helping a beginner learn to play the bass through working on her bow hold, finger positioning, stuff like that.”

Marsteller Middle School orchestra and guitar teacher Danielle Bowers recalled her start with the program. “My daughter started coming to this camp. Then, I thought it would be a great opportunity to work with other students, and I get know some of my students a little better,” she explained. Bowers is a Prince William County Public Schools graduate who got her start playing in the orchestra at Woobridge High School. “I discovered that honestly music is what I do best, what I enjoy the most. It’s also a great stress-reliever, which was really helpful to me in high school,” she added.

Von Bernewitz concluded, “It does make me proud to see this continue through my daughter Amy’s work. She will be here to continue this summer tradition for our orchestra students. It’s a wonderful opportunity for students and their teachers as well as for collaboration and introductions to new techniques to all of us.”

The Orchestra Camp teaching staff also included:

Ben Bernstein, orchestra teacher at Colgan High School.

Anna Henke, orchestra teacher at The Nokesville School.

Jeff Ohmart, orchestra teacher at Buckland Mills, Chris Yung, and West Gate Elementary Schools.

Daniel Post, orchestra teacher at Porter Traditional School.

Jennifer Randsdell, orchestra teacher at Rockledge, Signal Hill, and Springwoods Elementary Schools.

Lauren Rucker, orchestra teacher at Bel Air, Dumfries, and Minnieville Elementary Schools.

Alyson Wyckoff, orchestra teacher at Featherstone, Lake Ridge, and Swans Creek Elementary Schools.

Robbie Carroll, former PWCS orchestra teacher who now teaches in Loudoun County Public Schools.