ORONO, Maine — Most summer days, the University of Maine campus is a tranquil place. The benches outside its many buildings, including Class of 1944 Hall, offer a spot for a few moments of rest and contemplation.
The quiet outside its doors stood in stark contrast this week to the cacophony of sound reverberating inside the building that connects the Collins Center for the Arts to the Memorial Union.
On Wednesday, high school musicians crowded together on the humid Hauck Auditorium stage, lined up in rows in a cold Minsky Concert Hall, jammed themselves into rehearsal rooms and huddled over music stands in nearly every empty nook and cranny of the 1944 building. The sound of this year’s Maine Summer Youth Music camp ebbed and flowed like the tide.
Music camp has been a staple at UMaine for almost 40 years, according to Chris White, director of the program and director of sports bands at the university. This summer, 197 students are taking part in the program, 35 more than attended last summer. Earlier this month, 184 middle school students attended a similar camp.
“This is one of the highest enrollments we’ve had in the last decade,” he said.
The camp offers nine days of musical activities from jazz ensembles and chamber music to symphonic orchestra, musical theater and choral singing. Students who live nearby commute; others live in Hart Hall and eat at the Wells Central dining center.
Students entering grades six through eight pay $275 in tuition. Those entering grades nine through 12 pay $390.
The program aims to help students improve their skills, give them an opportunity to participate in ensemble groups, and expose them to the University of Maine campus, according to White. While he did not have statistics about the number of campers who later enroll at UMaine, he said 66 percent of the university’s music ma-jors had attended camp while in middle and-or high school.
Michael Nokes, 22, of Dexter is a former camper who went on to graduate from UMaine. He earned his bachelor’s degree in music education from the university in May. He decided to work on the staff at the camp this summer before heading to William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J., for graduate school.
“When I first came to camp it was the first chance I’d had to play with dedicated musicians who really cared about their craft,” he said Wednesday. “It was an eye-opening experience and a tremendous opportunity.”
During camp, Nokes, who plays the trumpet, also worked with UMaine’s trumpet teacher, Jack Burt. That experience led him to attend UMaine to continue that relationship, Nokes said Wednesday.
Campers aren’t the only musicians who return year after year.
Peter Bouffard of Lincoln, Neb., has been working with student musicians interested in jazz nearly every summer since he graduated from UMaine in 1987. The 45-year-old music teacher said he and his wife, a Maine native, combine family obligations and vacation time with music camp.
Bouffard said his reason for returning is simple.
“The kids are incredibly awesome,” he said Wednesday. “It’s the only place I go where they’re all into the music. It’s not always that way in class.”
In an effort to attract more talented string players to the program, Anatole Weick and other music teachers have reached outside of Maine to recruit students to music camp. This summer 16 new string players from as far away as Japan participated, according to Weick.
Peter Handford, 18, of Northport, N.Y., is one of them. A cellist, he came to music camp to play chamber music. Weick coached Handford and three other musicians as they practiced Wednesday morning in a hallway.
“In 15 minutes, he gave us enough guidance about technique and the character of the music that we were able to go off and do it ourselves,” said Handford, who is considering transferring to UMaine from a university in northern New York.
Kate Fogler, 18, of Orrington, a recent graduate of John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor, has spent five summers at music camp for similar reasons.
“I like being with musical people,” she said. “I play jazz and classical, but my favorite is jazz. I’ve learned a lot about improvising working here with other musicians. What I’ve learned, I’ve been able to take back to less-experienced musicians.”
The opportunity to be with other high school students who have a talent for and a love of music is why Monica Wilbur, 15, and Becca Pelletier, 16, both of Bangor, skipped Wednesday’s rest period to grab 30 minutes of rehearsal time.
“I like the feeling and the energy of being in a group of more than 100 other students who have the same passion for the performing arts that I do,” Wilbur said. “This is where we give the best performances we’ll give all year.”
“Here, we’re constantly competing with our peers, but we’re also learning from our colleagues,” Pelletier said. “Here, you learn to accept where you are while pushing your limits.”
A story on Page B1 of Friday’s edition about the Maine Summer Youth Music Academy at the University of Maine requires correction. The concert schedule includes: jazz music at 7:30 p.m. Saturday; musical theater at 2 p.m. Sunday; and a final concert with a symphonic band, concert band, string ensemble and chorus at 5 p.m. Sunday. All performances will be at the Collins Center for the Arts.