A high-caliber music camp in Fayette County wants to bring world-class musical instruction to children in the Appalachian region on a permanent basis, and they are asking for support from the local community to fund their efforts.
For the fifth year in a row, Coda Mountain Academy of Music will bring faculty from prestigious schools like Juilliard, Peabody, and the Cleveland Institute of Music to the hills of West Virginia.
“I feel that if the community can rally around it, we can have something that the entire state of West Virginia can be proud of and that will serve our youth for many years,” says Esther Morey, the camp’s director. “We have this big city excellence with this gorgeous natural surroundings and small town hospitality. What a mix.”
The camp was founded in 2007 by Morey and her son, Charles, to promote artistic excellence in students in Appalachia and beyond. What started at 15 kids at a little Baptist church in Bradley has more than doubled in size.
It was Charles — a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music who performs, conducts, and teaches violin for a living — who brought the high-toned faculty connections to Coda.
“There’s nothing that will light the fire of a kid more than hearing an instrument played like it’s supposed to be played,” says Morey. “It creates desire better than anything I know of.”
The Moreys are a family of accomplished musicians. Esther’s daughter, Heidi, won first place at a national harp competition in Texas last summer. But Esther doesn’t believe that good musicianship is inherited.
“I’ve never seen a child not do well in music if given the right environment and the right support,” she says.
“(Coda) helped me learn more about how to be expressive with my music,” says 14-year-old Perri Kiser from Hico, who plays four stringed instruments.
“The faculty help raise you a level and they are very friendly people ... Plus, it’s nice to be able to communicate and have a connection with other young musicians,” she says.
Kendra Ramsey, a pianist and cellist from Fayetteville, agrees that the quality of the faculty, as well as the social experiences, add up to a program that’s worth supporting.
The camp has a Christian bent, and most of the faculty have that background, but Morey says the camp is open to all.
“What we are trying to do is create an environment that espouses the character traits in the Bible of honesty, respect, and love.
“We do have devotional moments ... but we also want to create a mutual respect among people who are not religious or who have different faiths.”
This year the camp will be at the former North American River Runners facility at Hico.
The 10-day overnight camp for children ages 12 to 23 runs from Aug. 9-19 and offers a choice of two tracks.
Both will integrate outdoor activities in the surrounding area.
The Academy Track — which Morey calls “the heart of Coda” — includes an intense program of private lessons, ensemble and chamber groups, theory, concert and eurythmics for violin, viola, cello, double bass and piano.
Classical, fiddling, sacred and pop music are in the program.
A Bluegrass Track taught by Brandon Green of East Tennessee State University may include classes on theory, harmony singing, bluegrass and traditional music history, and individual instruction on mandolin, guitar, banjo, dobro, and upright bass.
And there will be jams. Morey hopes the classical and bluegrass kids will exchange skills over the 10 days. “There’s going to be some merging that will be exciting for both sides and expand their horizons,” she says.
Kids in the local area can choose from two day camps.
Coda Kidz for children ages 5-12 runs Aug. 7-12 and provides the opportunity for children to begin or advance their skills in violin, viola, cello, bass or guitar. Depending on ability level, three tracks are offered.
A performance-based drama camp, Coda Drama, runs July 26-Aug. 5 and includes classes and rehearsals culminating in a performance of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.”
Speaking parts will be pre-cast, with auditions in May.
But a program of this quality comes at some cost, and Morey says she has only been able to pay the faculty three out of four summers.
“It’s a grassroots organization and people are willing to sacrifice to make it happen,” she says.
Nevertheless, she is hoping to secure more funds to replenish the program’s $35,000 budget.
Recently, the Fayette County Commission dedicated $5,000 to Coda, and Morey says a grant from the state Senate has also been promised.
She wants to use the money to market the camp and expand its size. Currently, she relies on word of mouth and an e-mail list of string teachers in the region.
Morey is encouraging individuals, civic groups and churches to support campers by providing partial scholarships. The campers are expected to earn part of the tuition themselves, or perhaps provide some work assistance.
Tax-deductible donations may be made by clicking on the “Donate” button at codamountain.com, or by sending checks to Coda, PO Box 615, Fayetteville, WV 25840.
Tuition and information are available at the organization’s website. A small break in price is available until June.
Students requesting a scholarship should indicate that desire on their application.
Drama auditions for significant parts in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” will be May 12 and 19 from 10 a.m. to noon at Fayetteville Christ Fellowship.
Drama Camp will run July 26 to Aug. 5 with workshops from 1 to 5 p.m. and rehearsals from 6 to 9 p.m.
Students who want significant roles will need to be available for advance rehearsals in June and July.