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Modern Music and Machines: 3D-Printing at the Penn Band Camp

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Modern Music and Machines: 3D-Printing at the Penn Band Camp

By Brooke Yanovich.

On the first day of band camp rehearsal, my fellow counselors and I are called to hand out music. I have in my hands “March Grandioso,” a piece that I know I’ll enjoy playing but will be difficult to learn in a week. I lean over their shoulders to see what they have in their hands. “Here I Am, Lord” seems a bit out of place; the band director must have a plan with it. The third piece I see makes me smile: Blue Suede’s “Hooked On a Feeling.” Will the song’s use in “Guardians of the Galaxy” be enough for the kids to enjoy, or is it too old?

Once we have it passed out and I resume my seat, I see words printed in the music, a rare phenomenon. The kids light up one by one, and it becomes an unspoken challenge to see who can chant the beginning “Ooga chaka ooga ooga” with the most emotion.

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The 12th annual Penn Band Summer Music Camp took place this past July, when nineteen high school students had a week full of rehearsals, performances, and other activities. Dr. Kushol Gupta established it in 2004 as a means of extending the Penn Band’s outreach. With other “Honor Band” opportunities being limited to a day each, the camp allows for more in-depth studying and a greater experience overall. Scholarships are given out every year through the Band and through Musicopia, a non-profit music education organization that directly benefits students in Philadelphia.

One of the newest workshops to be added to the camp was a visit to Penn Libraries’ Education Commons to see their 3D printers. We were able to take anything from the website Thingiverse and print it out for the students to use, thanks to the Commons’ generosity. All of our objects were sanded by hand and then used in the concert. The most popular objects printed were our three trumpet mouthpieces in black, gray, and purple. Others included a cowbell set, a kazoo, an ocarina, a horn, and a guiro (a ridged percussion instrument).

During planning for the camp, each counselor took on an individual project. One immediately volunteered to fill an empty space in the schedule with a talent show. Another was passionate about what would be one of our visits, the Battleship New Jersey, and decided to do an introduction. I was at a loss for what I could contribute. I volunteered to run small tasks, like a game-and-movie night, and wondered if there was something more I could do.

Fortunately, Education Commons contacted the band first. Eric Janec and the staff met with Dr. Gupta over the summer, and a 3D-printing collaboration was decided on. It was potentially limitless and could be placed anywhere in the schedule. Due to my prior experience with 3D-printing in some Architecture courses I had taken, I was suggested for leading the project. At first, I was nervous about helming what could be such a big project, but after realizing the vast scope of what we could do, I relaxed. My project consisted of an introduction to the topic using YouTube videos, the visit itself, and the preparation of the instruments to be used in concert.

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The band camp also traveled to Philadelphia and beyond for many performances. The students performed at the Battleship New Jersey in Camden and the Penn Museum. The audiences could not have been more different. For the Battleship, a special version of the Star Spangled Banner was done in which a solo trumpet played the first two stanzas. This made it an honorable tribute to how the musicians of the army would play it, and visitors and veterans alike complimented the trumpet player afterward. For the Penn Museum, we played the melodies of popular songs like “Bang Bang,” “Uma Thurman,” and “Trumpets,” and we had the children of the Penn Archaeology Summer Camp try to guess which songs we were playing.

Idina Menzel’s performance at the Mann Center was the only performance the students of the band camp did not put on themselves. We sat on the lawn and listened to her sing original songs she composed from her first album, songs that she sung on Broadway like “Defying Gravity,” and songs by other bands like “Creep.” We then used her concert as inspiration to play “Defying Gravity” in our weekend concert at the Iron Gate Theater. We only had a day to learn the entire piece, but the kids pulled through. We would have made Idina proud.

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The 3D-printing project showed me that planning is not the hardest part of a project; the execution is. When I threw out at least ten different ideas for what we could print, I did not realize that I would have to be the one to make sure every instrument was playable. This included sanding down all of the rough plastic that did not come off with the rafts (flexible plastic that is used to support objects as they are printed vertically) and gluing together parts. Those processes took up more time than planning the project!

The camp in general also taught me I need to be less afraid. One of the youngest students that attended our camp was from Philadelphia and lives right down the street from Penn. He has already learned how to play eight different instruments (including the hard-to-perfect bassoon) and has a Soundcloud webpage where he shares the music that he makes! Meanwhile, I play three instruments and am afraid to organize anything musical without planning ahead for months. Even currently concentrating in Theory and Composition, I have only ever written one song, and I have never shared it with anyone. This semester, I plan to connect to more music majors and hopefully share a song that I composed on social media, even if it is a short one. If that young student can do it, so can I, right?

Brooke Yanovich is a junior majoring in Music. She is from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and is a member of the Penn Band and PennFlutes ensemble. She likes cooking shows, anime, and astronomy.

Edited by Mariah Macias.