New director heads 47th camp at HSU

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published July 17, 2013 at 10:49 a.m.
Updated July 17, 2013 at 10:49 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

High school students from around the state warm up before a rehearsal during the 47th annual Henderson State University Band Camp in Arkadelphia.

Jack Henry, a member of the Benton High School Band, took his seat near the back of the stage Monday afternoon in Arkansas Hall on the campus of Henderson State University.

He readied his bass trombone for the rehearsal and watched as other student musicians from high schools all across the state also took their seats on the stage.

Henry and other band members from Benton High were among nearly 1,000 high school band members who have been attending the 47th annual HSU band camp in Arkadelphia. The senior band camp for high school students started Sunday night when students arrived. Classes and the first rehearsals began Monday.

“We have two junior camps,” said Carrie Pawelski, the new director of bands at Henderson. “Junior 1 is for students who have had only one year of band, and it usually has students going into the seventh grade. Junior 2 is for students who have had two or three years of band, and the senior sessions are for the high school bands.”

Pawelski, who just completed her Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Arizona State University, came to campus — before her new job officially started on July 1 — to help run the band camps that started with the Junior 1 camp on June 18. Steve Knight, who has served as interim director of bands for the past year, coordinated the camps and is co-conductor with Pawelski.

“Band camp is good for the students,” Pawelski said. “First, it keeps them playing for the summer. We have auditions to place them in one of three bands, so they have been practicing on those pieces, and then we work hard here for seven days. It is better than having the students’ instruments gathering dust in the closet all summer.”

Beyond giving band members a reason to keep their playing sharp during the summer, the camp is designed to give the students a fresh perspective, a wider musical experience and new challenges as musicians.

“They will have guest conductors that may do things differently than they are used to at school, and they can work with an outstanding guest soloist,” Pawelski said. “This year’s soloist is Velvet Brown, an internationally known tuba player who is a professor at Pennsylvania State University.”

Along with rehearsals every day, with either Knight or Pawelski, for a Saturday-afternoon performance, the students also get individual attention during hour-long sectional rehearsals.

“That is a time when all the trombones play together, or the clarinet players,” Pawelski said. “There are usually about eight to 10 in a sectional, so the students can get individual attention from veteran high school teachers or graduate students who will someday be band teachers.”

There are also opportunities for the students to play in a jazz band, brass choir or another chamber ensemble. There are even times when the young musicians put their instruments down for lessons in music theory and conducting.

The students are often accompanied by their band directors, and Pawelski said the band camp includes opportunities for the teachers’ professional development.

“We have programs on curriculum, or we will just take an important topic for high school band directors and coordinate a discussion where they can share their thoughts and ideas.”

She said many of the band directors taking part in the camp are returning to the Henderson State campus, where they were students.

“I think the directors find it fun to get together,” Pawelski said. “It’s like a reunion.”

The gathering of HSU grads and their students is one of the unique things about HSU’s camp.

“We also have 40 current HSU students as counselors at the camp,” Pawelski said. “We have former students, current students and I hope some future students here, all together. It reflects the pride and tradition the school and the band program have in Arkansas. That is one of the reasons I came here — it’s neat.”

Pawelski is a native of Jamestown, N.Y., about an hour south of Buffalo, but said she finds Arkadelphia to be much like her hometown.

“I love this area. My entire college life has been in big cities, so I am glad to be back in a small town,” she said. “I walk to work. I’m not driving on the highways. The summer is hotter than back home, but after two years in the Arizona desert, it’s fine.”

A trombone player since a young age, Pawelski earned degrees in trombone performance and music education at the Eastman School of Music, and a master’s degree in conducting at State University of New York at Fredonia. Before going for her doctorate at Arizona State, she taught music in South Milwaukee, Wis. There, she taught the band program for ages 6-12, served as the school district’s music-curriculum coordinator and founded the competitive marching band at the high school.

While this is her first university teaching job, she was a graduate teaching assistant at both Arizona State and Fredonia, conducting and teaching both undergraduate and graduate students.

At Henderson, she will be co-director of the Show Band of Arkansas, HSU’s marching band, and will be in charge of seven other band ensembles, working with eight professors and adjunct instructors who teach brass or woodwind instruments.

“Between the majors and nonmajors, we have some 160 students in our band program,” she said.

Pawelski said she applied for many jobs around the country as she completed her doctorate, but she was pleased to be offered the job at a school where the focus is on the students, and the faculty is supportive.

“I fell in love with this place. This student-oriented school plays a role in the community,” she said. “I wanted to be part of an institution that has an impact on communities. I want to teach the teachers of the future — teachers who will stay in touch with the university when they lead their own programs.”

Pawelski said she looks forward to being a part of Henderson’s marching band, especially when the Reddies play Arkansas Tech in the Boom Town Classic in El Dorado and Ouachita Baptist University in the Battle of the Ravine.

“I want to be with them as they march across the street to the game,” she said.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or

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