When mid-July hits, a tradition on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas arrives.
Musical numbers show tunes, and young kids in bright shirts fill the halls of the campus and bring new life and raised brows from the summer school students. Since 1992, the tradition of choral extravagance has found it’s way to UCA. Now in it’s 23rd year, Arkansas Choral Connection (ACC) Choir Camp brings present the Magic Singdom, a Disney themed camp experience.
Students are given a taste of independence in a safe and contained environment. Dormitories are used to ensure the campers are together and have all the amenities of a true counselor.
Lifelong camper turned camp counselor, Ashley Zirkle said, "Choir Camp brings kids together to attain a common goal. It introduces students to new directors and different styles of teaching, as well as students from all over the state. It is a good opportunity for them to make new friends. They learn a lot of music throughout the week and is a ton of fun."
Zirkle’s job is to wear many hats and have an endless supply of energy. "I do everything from waking them up, keeping them in line, and resolving conflicts. I also have to dance and entertain them at mail call. Pretty much, we do every job that needs to be done," said Zirkle.
The students at ACC Choir Camp experience music in a fun and extremely interactive manner. Events and classes are spread throughout the week to ensure student engagement and camp-connection. One of the largest events is the track and field night, where teams (pre-determined at day one of camp) compete for the gold and bragging rights until the following year’s camp. Courses allow students to test the vocal waters under the direction of an array of talented and innovative choral directors.
"The different courses and activities allow students to diversify their learning experiences with different directors and different voices to sing with," said Zirkle, "It also offers opportunities for social growth. They are pulled out of their regular lives and into choir camp world. Campers are encouraged to get out of their box and meet new people and make new friends."
Another coveted event is the annual talent show ,where campers, counselors, and directors alike join in to showcase their hidden gem of a talent.
Amidst the hustle and bustle of choir songs, courses, and events, campers get a unique experience that is unlike other camps. Zirkle explains that "I remember having a tone of fun and singing great music. The staff was always energetic and caring. I always wanted to be a counslelor because I looked up to them so much and thought they were so cool."
Zirkle recommends students to go to choir camp, "Camp provides a wonderful opportunity to create a community atmosphere and be involved in something bigger than you," said Zirkle," It takes the whole group to make the song and they have to work together to do that."
Many of the counselors have mimicked Zirkle’s enthusiasm for camp, "I came to choir camp for the first time senior year and it completely changed my life," said Suede Graham, camp counselor.