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


At this morning’s collection, one of our staff members (who is also a former camper, as so many staff are) spoke about her vision of collection as a fire. In this metaphor, we feed the fire and it burns throughout camp. At the end of camp, we each take embers home in our “little clay pots,” as she described it, and keep them safe and glowing until the next summer when we can bring them all together again, to create a new fire. The next summer’s fire is different, yet it has pieces of the previous fire in it, reaching all the way back to the earliest days of FMC.

I loved this vision and this metaphor. This led me to think in turn about the literal celebratory bonfire we have midway through camp, and how we could see that as the manifestation of the metaphorical one. I’ve never been at a bonfire where everyone around wasn’t fascinated with watching or poking the fire, feeding it new fuel, or focused on soaking up its heat. Really, we do all these things with our silent collection time too — observing it, seeing what it’s all about, trying to understand the shifting light shining out of it, or simply absorbing its warmth and force.

It is almost time to pack up our embers for another year, but I hope we will feel the anticipation of bringing them back together next summer.

– Drea

Monday morning — a snapshot

The picture of FMC on a Monday morning:

Street band is practicing in the Music Box. Their melodies and rhythms drift all over campus.

An acting class is playing “Night at the Museum” on the lawn. Other campers are outside practicing 10 minutes of mindfulness for a different class.

The strains of flute music waft out of a 2nd story window as a staff member practices.

Inside buildings, out of sight but buzzing away, campers and staff are in lessons and ensembles, making all kinds of music.

The morning’s mist is burning away, and the sun is coming out — a hot, beautiful, musical day here at FMC. We are immersed in our final week and enjoying each other and the music we make together.

– Drea

What a weekend!

Dear loyal blog readers — sorry it’s been a few days. The weekend was so very full! But we had a wonderful time.

The middle weekend has traditionally started a little early, with Friday’s canoe trip on the Tuscarawas River about 80 miles north of here. We lucked out with the weather when a passing storm only sent down one thunder-lightning combo before moving out of our way and letting us get on the river. With the water high, it was a fast and fun trip.


Feast setup

Then on Saturday, we had our annual feast and good bye to the two-week campers. One of them performed the very poignant “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone” — which we all do, for sure.

For the first time in many years, we were able to have our post-feast campfire outside! For those of you who have been following past years, we’ve had some very clever inside setups involving fans and tissue paper, but it was very nice to be able to be outside and have a real fire.


Outside campfire. Hooray!

On Sunday, we had our second week big groups concert, followed by the two-weekers’ musical. They did a wonderful job — it’s hard to believe how much they can accomplish in just 10 rehearsals!

Now everyone’s getting ready for our benefit concert in Yellow Springs next weekend. If you’re in the area, we hope you’ll come see us. We’re making so much good music and really enjoying each others’ company.

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