For the past 3 years I have had the honor of attending the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) Gulf Coast Course in Houston, Texas. I get to attend this 1-week camp thanks to the generosity of Friends of Music. At the camp, girls from 10 to 18 get to work with professionals in choral music from all over the country, and sing at different churches and cathedrals in Houston. This year I went with four other girls from this church: Sarah Spurlin, Caroline Spurlin, Abby Alexander, and Amanda Higby. While we’re there, we get to meet new people and see friends who we can only ever see once a year. It’s not very common to find a camp that has such intense work, and yet is so much fun that I count down the days every year until I get to go back.
One reason this course is such an amazing opportunity is that we are able to access some of the best musical training available. During the week we get to work with not only professionals, but also with friends from all over the country who share their own experience and expertise. This year at camp we learned, along with other short pieces of music, the majority of Handel’s Messiah. This is an extremely beautiful, yet difficult piece of music to learn, especially when we only had 4 days of rehearsal as a group. We often rehearsed for up to 7 hours a day, plus occasional Evensong services. However, nobody ever complained, because during this time we learned so much about music, and when the time came to perform all the pieces we had learned, all the hard work paid off. We got to sing in some of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen, and we were accompanied by a full orchestra and other professional musicians. It was an amazing experience to see our whole group improve in just a week.
Another reason this week is such a great experience is because I get to see friends who I only get to see at this camp, and also meet lots of new people. One of the most surprising things is that even though different people come every year, and even though there’s almost always over 30 girls, we all become so close at the end of the week that we’re practically family. One of the reasons we’re so close is that not only can I have fun with them, I can learn from them too, because we’re all there for the same reason. We all love music and we all want to improve, and help each other improve too. On top of that there are other activities. Every year we go to the beach and the mall for a day, where we can have a relaxed rehearsal schedule and have a chance to rest our voices and take a bit of a break. There are also smaller activities, such as theme days and movie nights. However one of the most anticipated activities is the talent show. At the end of the week, anyone who wants to from the group can sing, dance, play an instrument, put on a skit with friends, or do almost anything in a small show that we put on for each other, our conductors, and parents. The performances are always surprising and entertaining, and can range from 9-year-old virtuosos playing sonatas by Mozart, to my friends and me doing an impromptu rap about the camp. It’s always the perfect way to end the week.
This RSCM coarse has taught me so much about music, friendship, independence, and so much more. From flying as an adult for the first time when I was 12, to getting less sleep and more laughs than I do at any other time, this has been an amazing experience. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend this camp for the past few years.
NOTE: Congratulations to choristers Sarah Spurlin and Caroline Spurlin, who both earned RSCM awards and medallions at the Gulf Coast Summer Course this year. Sarah was awarded the Voice for Life Silver Award with Merit, and Caroline the Bronze Award with Merit. We are proud of you! The St. Philip’s Friends of Music annually provides scholarships to enable our choristers to attend RSCM Summer Courses. This year, eight young singers participated.