Musings from an FMC Returnee

My sister, Jocelyn, is a former camper and staff member and volunteered to write a blog post after visiting us this past weekend. Here are her thoughts on FMC after our move to Earlham:

My first summer at FMC I was 12 year old four-weeker and had only been playing oboe two years. It was the longest I’d ever been away from home, and I was one of the youngest in the girls’ dorm. Homesickness and the initial (unfounded) sense of being unworthy resulted in my first week being absolutely terrible. If there was one thing I thought I knew, it’s that I hated FMC.

But kids being kids, I eventually adapted. I found a group of girls my age that I was rarely without. I befriended a few of the older kids, too, so I always felt included. And even though I was nowhere near what could be described as good at oboe, I felt safe enough that I wasn’t concerned about being judged for my abilities.

Over the years, I came to not only look forward to the intangible aspects of FMC but also its physical home Olney Friends School. I love(d) the grounds. Waking up to fresh dew on the grass, watching the sun rise over the lake and set over the soccer field, the swing under the tree by the boy’s dorm, the hub-like nature of the main building’s front porch, the buses getting stuck behind an Amish horse and buggy at least once. It was all for me.

(My love for the Olney campus even went so far as influencing where I went to college when upon my first visit, my olfactory memory was triggered, and I was convinced for the briefest moment I was actually in southeastern Ohio and not south-central Kansas.)

And apparently I didn’t get enough in my five years as a camper, considering I came back to counsel for another four summers.

But now, twelve years after my first summer at FMC and having spent half my life dreaming about, loving, and being changed by this camp, a lot of things seem to be different, at least on the surface. Most notably is the relocation to Earlham College.

As I’m sure you can imagine given my professed love for Olney, when I initially heard about the possibility for FMC to move, I was not a fan. While there were a zillion reasons for Earlham to become our new home, I struggled to get comfortable with it. For me, FMC was so wrapped up in its physical location, I struggled to see how it would work anywhere else. For the staff, many of whom had been at FMC for 10+ years, the prospect of Earlham was exciting but the thought of leaving Olney and its ghosts behind was equally painful.

But as we all know, FMC moved to Earlham.

Due to personal matters, I was unable to return as a counselor this year but have had the privilege to visit. I was at Earlham for all of 15 hours, 7 of which I slept, but the time still spoke volumes.

Driving to camp, I was curious to see how it would be. I knew FMC had fewer campers than normal and obviously the spaces were different, but outside of that, I didn’t quite know what I was walking into. I couldn’t help but worry the camp I loved would be unrecognizable.

I should have had more faith in the resiliency of FMC.

Yes, the place is different, but the reality is, everything I truly love about FMC still exists anyway.

Driving up to the part of campus where FMC is concentrated, I saw a bunch of campers sitting on an adjacent field while others ran around playing Ultimate Frisbee, a sight that was common at Olney. (Those campers then walked to evening collection as gross as ever. Again, a common occurrence from the Olney days.)

Within ten minutes of walking into the dorm, I heard singing from two campers who became staple campers over my tenure as counselor. At collection, campers still partook in cuddle puddles, though they seemed to be more comfortable than years past thanks to the air conditioning. Hearing gentle rustling, I still found campers who couldn’t settle into the silence signaling to each other, resulting in staff members shooting them playful glares.

The campers were still impossible when it came to going to bed. Adults (and a few of the older campers) still had to explain the benefits of regular showering. The staffers were still consuming mass amounts of iced coffee from the closest, cheapest place with coffee. It used to be McDonald’s, now it’s Tim Horton’s.

Someone had inevitably lost something. A ukelele was abandoned in a dorm lounge. Despite the upcoming benefit concert in Yellow Springs, chorus rehearsal was the bizarre balance of focus and fun that only FMCers seem capable of achieving, getting work done while still managing to have fun at the same time.

I am still Joci, a nickname I came to FMC with but eventually stopped using. A nickname which seemed to stick in this place, despite the three year gap between my time as a camper and counselor, during which I forgot that “Joci” was my name at camp. But camp didn’t forget.

Really the only thing I noticed missing was the giant pile of shoes which became notorious with the girls’ dorm entryway at Olney, something which I’m sure everyone is fine to see gone, despite the joy staffers got from holding said shoes hostage when they weren’t retrieved in a timely manner.

While I did not see everything about FMC’s new life at Earlham, I am now 100% sure that it is still the FMC I came to love as a child. FMC may not look the same on the surface anymore, but the spirit is the same. It is full, it is love, and it is still somewhere to call home and family, regardless of the nostalgia embedded in this musing.

Long Days & Short Weeks

A strange thing happens to time at FMC. It’s an oft-discussed phenomenon. The days seem to stretch on for a long time. If you look back on the morning at the end of the day, it seems like it happened a long time ago. Yet the weeks seem to speed by. So before you know it, a week has passed, without you even quite realizing it.

So here’s a recap of the headline stories from the past week:

  • There was an epic pool party in the Earlham Wellness Center followed by an even more epic game of Jenga.
  • Campers rocked the first student recital of the month.
  • The traditional game of Capture the Flag took place. (The Red Team won.)
  • Everyone performed on the first big groups concert of the month.
  • There was a campus-wide scavenger hunt, in which everyone had to find a tree that embodied the spirit of their group, among other things.
  • Rory led a hike through the trails on back campus.
  • The staff had another recital.
  • The boys live rickrolled the girls.
  • And tonight, campers will be doing any number of crazy and awesome acts for Stunt Night.

Phew. It’s been a good week.


Music for Ensemble and Thunderstorm

Last night, the first staff recital of the month took place while a thunderstorm raged outside. Pieces by Bach, Schubert, Schickele, Bartok, and others were accompanied by some of nature’s own music.

Many former campers will recall Peg saying, “Do you know how lucky you are?” before the first staff recital of every summer. FMC is truly lucky to have so many incredible people on staff. Last night’s concert continued the track record of awesome staff recitals, as evidenced by the (seriously) rapt attention of the campers.

One of the things I enjoy most about FMC are the number of people here who write their own music, campers and staff alike. Yesterday’s concert featured not one but three original pieces by members of the staff. I love that facet of creativity in our community.

We were also delighted to have two guests join us yesterday. Our brass teacher and band director invited two acquaintances to join him to form a trombone trio for a great set at the end of the concert. And if you have ever heard a trombone trio, you know that it’s a very cool experience. A great way to wrap up the night!

Week 1 Staff Recital


A Talk With Our Founder

Our evening program last night was a talk with our very own Peg Champney. I’m sure many know that Peg was the founder of FMC, along with her friend Jean Putnam. For those who know Peg personally, you probably know her as someone who listens much more than she talks. So getting to hear her speak about her life and the beginnings of FMC for an extended time was an unqualified delight.

Peg began by telling us about her early years, growing up during the Great Depression. She told us about her time in high school… (“My teenage years were the worst years of my life. I was so worried about what people thought back then.”) …And finding her way to Antioch for college… (“I arrived at Antioch and immediately thought, ‘This is my place; these are my people.'”)

My favorite story from her youth was hearing about her first violin. There was a chance for Peg to buy a violin for about $18 and her parents told her that if she could earn the money to buy that violin, then she could take lessons with a teacher who was offering free instruction. Her father got her an after-school job working at a stand in town. She worked ten hours a week for 33 cents an hour and was able to “save up enough money after not too long to buy that little violin.” Peg told us that seeing that violin for the first time is one of her clearest memories from her childhood. Opening the case and seeing the beautiful purple velvet lining with purple ribbons to keep the bow in place and the little violin, she thought it was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.

Years later, after arriving in Yellow Springs to attend Antioch, Peg was invited to breakfast by a new acquaintance, Ava Champney. As it happened, Ava had apparently been inviting women over who might be a good match for her son, Ken. As Peg said, “I guess sometimes scheming mothers can get things right because I fell in love with one of the two draft resisters in Yellow Springs, which was a requirement for me.” Ken worked for the Yellow Springs News at the time and, as a conscientious objector, expected that he would eventually be arrested. He eventually spent 20 months in prison early in their marriage. So Peg learned to operate the machinery used to print the Yellow Springs News and dropped out of Antioch to continue printing the paper in his stead. After Ken’s release, they went on to raise seven children, including foster children.

As the Champney children grew, Peg found herself wanting a camp that her kids could attend in the summer. Some of the kids had had great experiences at other music camps so the idea of starting a music camp that also embraced their Quaker values seemed like a natural idea. Peg teamed up with Jean Putnam and the first summer of FMC took place at Olney Friends School in 1980 with 17 campers. After that, the camp grew into what it is today. The campers listening had many questions about what camp was like at the beginning compared to what it is like now. They were amused to find out that janitorial was instituted by a committee of campers, rather than adults. Campers were also the first to request having collection, a short time of silent worship, twice a day, instead of just once.

Peg said many times throughout the discussion that she has often felt that FMC has something watching over it. Despite mistakes and times when things did not go as well as hoped, somehow FMC has always flourished. The right people have been there at the right time to do the right things when they were needed. But without Peg, not only would FMC not exist at all, it would not have continued through 37 years and for many more yet to come. So I’m glad that we have her watching over us as well.

We’re moving!

Dear Friends Music Camp community,

After lots of consideration, and input from many members of our community, our board has approved a move to Earlham College for Friends Music Camp 2016. Earlham offers a vibrant Quaker community, beautiful fields and wooded land, and a state-of-the-art performing arts facility, opened in 2014.

We’re deeply grateful to Olney Friends School for years of partnership, and we’re looking forward to opening this new chapter for FMC. More information about camp registration and logistics will follow in the new year.

We hope we’ll see you next summer!

On changes and endings

The end of camp means a change for all of us. After a month spent together in a very close-knit community, we go our mostly-separate ways. Some find ways to see each other during the year. Others rely on technology and even old-fashioned letter writing to stay in touch. It can be a hard transition, even when lots of exciting things are waiting for us after FMC.

Last night at collection, I was reminiscing about my own lifetime of changes here at FMC. My very first day here was my twelfth birthday, and then when I departed, five years later, on my last day as a camper (sobbing, most likely) I could not possibly have imagined what FMC future was waiting for me. And as I thought about the much younger me, I thought about all the others who have sat in that collection, how much change and growth we have been blessed to be a part of over the years, and how amazing it is to think back on the years you have known someone. There is always a lot of this reminiscing during the month of camp.

And that’s the thing about change, I guess. Sometimes it’s hard, but it’s also the only way we can grow. I honestly find change to be an unbelievable mystery. Our bodies and minds and ideas change, the world changes, everything shifts — and yet we still exist, the world still exists. Despite all the sadness this morning, FMC will grow again next summer. And that is a blessing too.

Until the next time,


Practice and progress

This year, my office is located next to the office and teaching studio of my co-director, Nick Hutchinson. This means I have been listening in on piano lessons (through the walls) all month long. While much of it blends into the background noise, there are a few pieces whose progress I’ve been following closely, probably because the music is well known and familiar.

What has struck me in the past few days is just how much improvement I can hear just over the course of the month. Students who came in at the beginning of the month unable to play the whole piece now can play it. One who couldn’t keep the same (fast) tempo throughout has been methodically working on the harder parts of a piece, and this morning it is really coming together!

A few years ago I had the chance to have some extended conversations with one of our campers about the value of music education at FMC as opposed to at school during the year. He was very articulate about it, and said that while his school program was fine, it was the act of being immersed in music, with people who care deeply about music, every day, all day, that made the biggest difference. This particular camper, like so many other campers and parents, felt like he made more progress in the month of camp than during the whole school year because of this immersive, concentrated, supportive environment.

If you’re following this blog, we hope you’ll help to spread the word about FMC during the year! Word of mouth is the number one way we reach new campers, who can then also benefit from the music, community, and fun we offer here.

– Drea