PORT TOWNSEND — An unfamiliar and sweet sound filled the air at Fort Worden State Park.
It was a rippling wave of applause, from a crowd seated on the grass, standing on porches and listening to a flock of young people making music. The Youth Education in Arts (YEA) Music Camp, a pay-what-you-can program wrapping the first of three summer sessions, presented a concert outside the fort’s Building 204 on Friday.
The five-day camp for students in fifth grade through high school — across the North Olympic Peninsula — is open to beginners as well as players with a year or more of experience. Its next sessions will be July 26-30 and Aug. 16-20, while information can be found at YEAmusic.org.
“We have 77 music campers this week!” instructor Daniel Ferland wrote in an email.
The program culminated in an end-of-session concert starring bands and chamber ensembles of various levels.
And with 71 students signed up for the second session, there’s still room for more, Ferland added.
He’s working with a large team of teachers and mentors from Port Townsend and around Washington state: longtime musicians who came to share their favorite kind of magic.
Unlike other music camps in the Pacific Northwest, which cost $500, $1,200 or more, YEA at Fort Worden suggests a $10-per-day donation.
No one is turned away, Ferland emphasized.
Centrum, the Jefferson Community Foundation’s Better Living through Giving circle, the Port Townsend Music Boosters club and Jefferson County’s Kiwanis Club and Elks Lodge have all helped the YEA program get started.
To continue the camps and, Ferland hopes, build a youth jazz ensemble, a youth symphony and eventually a youth choir, more support is needed.
Information about how to contribute money, musical instruments and volunteer time can be found at YEAmusic.org.
The website also offers profiles of the camp instructors, highly accomplished musicians who include Port Townsend’s Kristin Smith, Pat Yearian, Gwen Franz, Mike McLeron and Bobbi Nikles and Quilcene Schools music teacher Emma Eliason.
The day camps are held outdoors at the fort, with safety protocols, Ferland noted.
Many of the musicians at Friday’s concert wore masks as they played jazz, classical and pop music for their audience of more than 100.
When the high school-age chamber group stepped up, Ferland told the crowd the players had just the past week to learn their classical piece. The music flowed smoothly, again inspiring the listeners to clap and whoop their approval.
Before the final number, a symphonic arrangement of “Come on Irene” with the violin section dancing when they weren’t playing, Ferland urged the audience to consider the young players’ futures. School districts are making reductions in their music programs, and school officials need to hear from community members, he said.
“I implore you to do one more thing,” Ferland added: “Get involved.”
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]