Spring 2009

A Conductor's Perspective
Gerry Willis, Young Musicians, 2008

This summer, I had the pleasure of serving as guest conductor for the Young Musicians Session, held in the first week of the season. These are first time campers coming to Caz for the summer and, there is an air of expectation and purpose among the staff to make sure that things are running smoothly, and every camper will have a great experience.

My relationship with Caz comes not only from a conductor?s perspective, but from my family as well. My wife, Ellen Winograd, is singlehandedly responsible for my Caz introduction. As a former camper, staff member, horn teacher, and dean of girls, Ellen has wonderful memories of the years spent there, and her zeal to share that joy of music has been a part of our family, and continues to the next generation- both of our daughters are campers as well!

When I guest conduct a groups of students, there is apprehension about what level they can achieve, what music will work best for young players, and what experience they will take with them after camp is over.

I should not have worried at all.

At the end of the first rehearsal, I was very clear about the high level of the students. By the end of the week, I was moved both emotionally and musically. The Young Musicians camp was a joy to participate in. These students were musically engaged, had a great work ethic, and knew how to have a good time when the horn was back in the case. We had a terrific staff that made all band members rise to the level of the music, which was the top difficulty level I had brought! Throughout the week, there was a sense of musical awareness within the band. The soundbites of individuals practicing were always audible through the trees, sometimes many times until they got it ?just right?.

Though just a week, young people were transformed musically and emotionally. You could see it at the final concert, as the music was performed for parents, friends, and former ?Cazaderians? who come back each year to share in the celebration of weekend performances. There is something beautifully organic about listening to others create music under the ageless redwoods. My wife has known this for many years, and I was humbled to share that feeling as well.

Before I came to camp, I wrote a piece for the band, only with the possibility that we could have a reading of it. I was so taken by their ability to perform it, and the premier of ?Elim Grove Fanfare? was placed on the CD for the week. To the audience, I recited the words that came to mind about the camp, inserted in the trio section of this march:

Here?s a toast to Elim Grove
Musician's respite be
Railroad line of food and wine
Now a bakery
Music fills the air
Redwoods soar
And though the days are gone
Elim Grove has a place in Cazadero
Music here lives on.

That last stanza says it all.

Gerald Willis
Director, Orchestra Studies
Truckee Meadows Community College
Washoe County School District
Reno , Nevada

Gerry Willis will be conducting the Young Musicians Orchestra this summer at Cazadero. Come see their performance Saturday June 27, 2009 at Cazadero Music Camp.


Check out the list of fabulous Guest Conductors coming to Caz in 2009.

Cazadero Music Camp