Summer Camp and Faking It

Edited: June 29, 2018, 1:03 PM · Did you ever go to summer music camp?
Did you ever fake it?

Here's my tale:

It was the summer of 1968.
Junior high had ended and I had been playing piano in our tiny orchestra but there were 3 of us and only one could play at a time so boredom reigned.
At the beginning of that last year of junior high there happened to be a spare double bass in the back. The music director told me to take it home , threw an instruction book at me and told me to practice. So, I became a double bassist for the rest of 9th grade.
My mother told me she had signed me up for summer sleepaway music camp for 2 weeks. I protested.
"But Mom, I haven't had any lessons yet and I really suck".
To no avail.

We went to Camp Neyati in western MD by bus. I chatted with my seatmate, Jon Jensen, a short nerdy kid, who also happened to play bass.
We got there late and the full orchestra was already starting to rehearse. We could hear them thorough the back door next to the bass section.

I peeked in. My eyes bugged out.

It was the Flying Dutchman Overture, you know, the part with the swelling and crashing waves. All the bass players were sawing away like crazy. Their music was filled with zillions of notes going up and down.
I said to myself, "You are so screwed. You can't play any of this and everyone is so much better than you."
Jon looked over, saw my expression, and said, "Don't worry. The're just faking it."
"Faking. You know, just pretend to play it."

So, I went on to learn how to fake it like everyone else and had a blast at camp. I got really good at ping-pong and music... not so much. Just the opposite happened to Jon; he was a bad ping-pong player. I got to hangout with some of pretty girls who played violin.

Summer camp propelled me to join MCYO, the local youth orchestra for the entirety of high school and I finally got to take lessons.

Now, exactly half-a-century later, Jon plays double bass for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and I'm a beginner violinist.

Replies (15)

June 29, 2018, 1:27 PM · Well, not at camp LOL, but I have my first rehearsal with the local community orchestra on Monday and I have PRACTICED faking it. :) I know I can't play several of the pieces up to speed, so I am planning on playing only the first note of multiple sets of 4 running 16th notes, one note of the triple stops, and watching my stand partner on the weird syncopated bits. I'll let you know how faking it goes! :) I hope to fake it until I someday make it.
June 29, 2018, 1:29 PM · You're talking to the person who mastered the art of pre-recorded practice at Meadowmount.

I never got busted. Not once.

June 29, 2018, 2:03 PM · Oh, I did think of a good camp story. Way back in the 70s, when I was at Sewanee Summer Music Festival, they decided to put both orchestras (the lower one, for us younger kids, and the upper one, for the older kids) together for one piece during the last performance of the camp. The piece was the Russian Easter Orchestra, played very much up to tempo, and we had 24 hours notice. We lower orchestra people were deer in the headlights, other than a few prodigies. The conductor, at the one rehearsal we had, finally sighed and said, "OK. If you are having trouble, just PLAY ANYTHING, but make sure the bowing is right. There are so many people onstage it probably won't matter."

And we did. And you know what? It actually sounded great LOL.

June 29, 2018, 2:05 PM · Ryan--what--you just sat in a practice room playing a recording of yourself practicing, while you read comic books?? :-)
June 29, 2018, 3:43 PM · MCYO = Montgomery County Youth Orchestra?

There are a few of us alumni here. :-)

(Junior Youth Orchestra 1971-1974; Youth Symphony 1974-1978)

Edited: June 29, 2018, 11:30 PM · Meadowmount had (probably still has) 5 hours a day of supervised practice. A monitor would go around the camp to the dorms and listen at the doors to make sure that students were putting in their time.

I usually slogged through the required practice time but like any kid there are limits to my diligence, so I recorded an hour of practice and figured out how to make it sound the most realistic outside the door to my room. I experimented endlessly with location, covering up the tape player, facing it in different directions etc.

If I remember correctly the final verdict was that it sounded most lifelike when placed inside a cardboard box, covered with shirt, facing away from the door. So whenever I needed some shuteye due to being out too late the previous night or I just felt a little lazy I just used my tape to cover for me.

But you think that was safe enough for me? Not a chance. I went a step further than anyone else would have even begun to consider: I went out of my way to befriend the practice monitor. I figured that if he liked me he'd be less likely to want to bust me for not practicing.

Any little edge, I tell you. Any little edge.

Edited: June 30, 2018, 2:24 AM · My first summer music school (Canford UK) was a freebie. They were short of a violin for the string chamber course, rang around a few suspects at short notice and settled for me when I told them I'd do it for precisely nothing. In exchange it was made clear that anytime I was approached by players on other courses (tired orchestral fiddlers, pianists, mixed string/wind groups etc) to make up the numbers the answer should be "yes". I enjoyed myself hugely, faking a-plenty but sleeping not a lot.
June 30, 2018, 3:31 AM · Aspen Festival final concert was Schoenberg Gurrelieder. Ridiculously extravagant in size and orchestration. Climax moments the score called for metal chain link for noise.

Everyone was faking something some of the time. At least for me, three days before 1st rehearsal wasn't enough time to learn the part.

Even hired and faculty principals got off. I learned that when an entire sections falls off and conductor stops the orchestra, if you're Principal Bass of NY Phil, you can just quickly ask conductor some questions about note check or bowing, and then complain that the conductor is speaking too softly and people can't hear him.

Aspen tent is a bathtub anyway so we were covered.

June 30, 2018, 10:13 AM · I was s dorm counselor at Meadowmount. The reason Ryan and others never got busted was that, after going to all that trouble to make recording of themselves, they didn't realize that we counselors weren't actually walking around checking on them.

We counselors made sophisticated recording loops of ourselves walking in the halls. We were actually out doing things, like playing croquet and drinking Margaritas, swimming at split (head) rock, or going for ice cream in Burlington.

Edited: June 30, 2018, 4:29 PM · I don't need to go to a summer school to fake it! Last night I was deputising in a performance of the Mussorgsky-Ravel "Pictures at an Exhibition", and had to sight-read most of it. If that doesn't require a bit of fakery now and again then I don't know what does!

Oh, and the temperature in the concert hall was 30 and the air-conditioning was down. I do wish people in the audience waving their programmes to keep cool would learn to do it in time with the conductor's baton, it's so distracting otherwise. :)

Edited: July 1, 2018, 9:45 AM · @ Scott. - lol That's pretty funny.

@ Elizabeth - I went to Sewanee too as a kid. That was such a great camp.

July 1, 2018, 7:16 PM · All these are humorous stories but I bet there's more fun to be had if a student goes to a camp that's actually at an appropriate level. There are camps for ordinary mortals -- lots of them.
July 2, 2018, 12:46 PM · Ryan--what years were you there? I was there in 1977. Actually, my friend and I were just there yesterday for a Sunday performance--we go back annually. Both orchestras did a great job! :-) Very little has changed.
July 2, 2018, 12:47 PM · Paul--I was in the orchestra suited to my level--both orchestras were put together on the last performance for one piece. So no need to be snide! :-)
July 2, 2018, 9:37 PM · I was unfortunately in MYSO this year as one of the important 1st violins and I actually faked part of the last piece we played.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Violin Finder
Yamaha Violin Finder

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Metzler Violin Shop
Metzler Violin Shop

Gliga Violins
Gliga Violins

ARIA International Summer Academy

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Los Angeles Violin Shop

Pluhar Violins

Potter Violins

Pro-Am Strings Ltd

Violin Lab

Violin Pros

Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop