Award-winning Stanley Humphries band student shares camp story

SHSS band student Kelsey Law talks about the camp she attended after winning the Jeff Roberts Memorial Award.

by SHSS band student Kelsey Law

Last December, I was presented with the Jeff Roberts Memorial Award for the Most Dedicated Band Student. The purpose of this award is to give a student from the Stanley Humphries Band the opportunity to attend a summer music camp by providing them with a $500 scholarship. After receiving the scholarship, I researched different music camps in Canada in order to find my best fit. As I sing and play upwards of nine instruments, it was quite a difficult decision. In the end, I chose to go to the International Music Camp to study Music Composition.

IMC is located at the International Peace Gardens, at the border of North Dakota and Manitoba. I had originally planned to take a thirty-seven hour bus ride but changed my mind when I realized that it would be just that: a thirty-seven hour bus ride. I also love flying, which just so happens to take a far shorter length of time. So, I booked my flights and prepared to embark on my voyage.

The musical aspect of my trip began sooner than I had anticipated. Just as my first flight started speeding down the Kelowna runway, inspiration for a song struck me. Unfortunately, I had absolutely no means of writing it down. I impatiently waited for the aircraft to reach elevation. As soon as the seatbelt light clicked off, I scrambled out of my seat, lunged into the overhead compartment, and realized that my notebook was in sky check. I took out my iPod and proceeded to type out the inspiration that was anxiously pacing about my mind. Once I had finished, I went on to give it the title ‘Escaping Airplanes’. A flight attendant was walking by at that very moment. That was when I realized it was probably an inappropriate time to write things like that.

I arrived at the International Music Camp at 12:30am, after a full day of travelling. An hour later, I was all settled into my dorm room and finally got to sleep.

6:00 a.m. It would seem that a combination of jetlag and excitement caused me to wake far too early for my own good. But the sun was shining and birds were singing, so I decided that it would be a great time to go for a walk and explore the campus. After an hour of exploring, I returned to my dormitory. The door was locked.

There were 430 students at the camp during my week. Programs ranged from dance to concert band, and jazz band to choir. Then there were the composition students; There were fourteen of us in total. Our program was also unlike any of the others; we had downtime in which to compose.

Our class was divided into groups of threes. These groups were determined by past composition experience, goals for the camp, and the type of music that one wished to compose. I was put in a group with two boys around my age. Over the duration of the camp, these two amazing people would become my closest friends.

I was somewhat surprised by our first task as composition students. It was called the ‘marshmallow challenge’. The goal of this challenge is to make the tallest structure out of spaghetti, a little tape, and a piece of string. This structure would have to be able to support a whole marshmallow at its top. With some basic physics concepts, a little artistic insight, and a lot of teamwork, my group won by a landslide. After we had all eaten the marshmallows, our professor explained why he had us do that activity. More than anything, it was a team building exercise; composers need to be able to work with others, be innovative, and make compromises.

Other activities that the composition class did involved a musical walk, theory classes, the history of notation, and different music eras. However, most of our time was spent working on compositions. I wrote a flute solo accompanied by four-hand piano, which I hope to orchestrate for my grad solo in the spring. I also started multiple vocal/guitar pieces.

Besides classes, students were kept extremely busy. After waiting in line with over four hundred students for dinner and a couple hours of free time, we were forced to attend ‘Mandatory Fun’. Yes, that is what it was called. One of the ‘Mandatory Fun’ nights was a talent showcase. I decided to audition, and got in. After I performed ‘Building Spaceships’, many of my friends congratulated me on my song. Leaving the concert hall that night, many people came up to me and commented that the lyrics were great and that I have a lovely voice. Apparently the song even appealed to those who typically refuse to listen to ‘love songs’. The following day, a group of younger boys approached me and asked if I would sing it for them.

Before I knew it, it was the last day of camp. The composition students held their final concert early in the morning. Everyone’s work was amazing; there were times that I felt I would cry. On the flute, I performed Looking Back with one of my two group members. Unfortunately, one had fallen ill the day before the performance. I also performed Escaping Airplanes. After everyone had performed, the composition professor came up to me and expressed his hope that I continue to perform and write lyrics.

After watching student concerts and performances for the rest of the afternoon, it finally dawned on me that that adventure was almost over. I never wanted it to end.

I would like to thank the Roberts family for their contribution to the Stanley Humphries Band. You have no idea how much it means to us.


(Music by Kelsey Law can be found online at