In concert together, 50 students come to this year's annual camp

Gray fog hung over an empty Crescent Elk Middle School last week. But while the school seemed empty, strains of "Rhapsody in Blue" floated out from the gymnasium.

"This is one of the few American elements we'll play," said Dan Sedgwick, Del Norte High School music instructor. "This is from my favorite American composer."

Sedgwick guided youngsters through a medley featuring George Gershwin's most well-known works. The students, ranging from fifth-grade through eighth-grade, also played music from Africa, Russia, China, Korea and the Celtic lands.

After an intensive five days last week - the camp started at 9 a.m. and ended at 2:30 p.m. - the students took parents and community members with them on their musical journey with a concert.

For more than 20 years, students and teachers from Del Norte and Curry counties have teamed up for the one-week North Coast Summer Band Camp. The number of students participating in the camp has increased to 50, said instructor Amy Ross, Crescent Elk's music teacher. Seven instructors and 15 high school mentors are also participating in the camp.

The camp is officially sponsored by the Del Norte High School Music Boosters, Ross said. But for students unable to pay the $70 to participate, businesses and organizations like Redwood Medical Group, Wild Rivers Community Foundation and Building Healthy Communities have helped, she said. Other sponsors include the Brookings-based group Friends of Music, the Curry-Del Norte Community Concert Association, Downtown Business and Professional Services and the Brookings Grocery Outlet, Ross said.

In addition to the concert band, the camp also features a jazz band.

"Anyone can play in the jazz band, no matter what instrument you play," Ross said, adding that the jazz band was playing Latin-themed music.

One piece featured is another medley of songs from around the world, named "Around the World in 80 Measures."

"It takes a worldly guy to direct that piece," said John Webster, another instructor from Brookings. "That's what you call a novelty piece."