- Associated Press - Monday, June 19, 2017

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - Silky, smooth bass chords easily mix with the jazzy, brass sounds that blast from trombones and trumpets inside the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center’s Grand Hall.

High school students, counselors and music coaches jam to the sounds roaring around them. Mike Gronsky, an Indiana University student and one of the counselors at Camp S.O.U.L. 2017, grins as the students join in on an impromptu music session after lunch.

This session may not have been on the agenda, but music is what brought all these high school kids here. They’re not going to miss a minute of it.

But that doesn’t mean music is the only thing happening at the camp.

Camp S.O.U.L., which stands for Students Obtaining Unique music Levels, is about more than “funky beats” and jams, said camp director Ignoisco Miles. It’s about application.

“How can we take this music and apply it to our own lives,” Miles said. “How can we take this story and apply it to our own lives, push through those obstacles and get there. So when we get there, we can dance and have a good time.”

Miles originally came to the program as a vocal instructor, but has since taken the place of his mentor and the camp’s founder, Tyron Cooper.

While it was daunting for Miles to step into that spot, once he did, he found it was easy because he spent so long “soaking up” everything he learned from Cooper.

“At first it was like, ‘I’m not sure I have the chops for that,’ but I said yes,” Miles said. “Here I am doing it and loving every single moment of it.”

The camp is a week-long program on the Bloomington campus through IU’s African American Arts Institute.

It brings together high school vocalists and instrumentalists for a week of intensive learning, and then on Friday, the last day of the camp, they put on a concert for the community and their families. The concert this year was scheduled Friday in the Neal-Marshall Center’s Grand Hall.

Sixteen-year-old Terry Golden, a bass player from Gary, described the camp as a “musician’s dream.”

“I love to play, and you just get to do music all week,” Golden said.

This is Golden’s third time at the camp, and everything he’s learned has altered his life. He said he hopes to attend IU, in part because of the experience he’s getting at the camp.

Indianapolis native Keziah Muthama, 15, is new to Camp S.O.U.L. This is her first time at the camp, and initially she was worried. She thought, “are the kids just going to think I’m super weird?”

But she remembers coming down from her room in one of the residence halls to see other kids clustered around a piano. They were playing, talking and laughing, and they welcomed her with ease. Since then, her confidence and love of the camp have only grown.

“I think it’s just a really good place to be. Especially as a musician,” she said.

What Golden and Muthama have found at the camp is exactly what Miles said the camp is designed to do.

He and his staff have a busy schedule. They’re teaching lyrics, melodies and the history of music, but time is taken each day to talk about the future and how to set the campers up for success, financially and academically.

“A camp like this needs to be around because these students really gain so much knowledge and so many skills from what we do here, not just in music, but in life,” Miles said.

The camp shows the kids what they can do in a single week. This mentality helps “build good people” for later in life and sets up a strong work ethic for the coming nine months of school.

The music opens doors, but it’s not everything, Miles said. It’s just the beginning.

“Yes, the music is good, the music is funky, but this music wasn’t created just for that,” he said. “The music was created because these people needed something to push them forward.”

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Source: The (Bloomington) Herald Times, http://bit.ly/2rE4KNC

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