About 100 students are making joyful sounds, new friends and forever memories as they attend the annual music and drama camp presented by Fairview United Methodist Church in Maryville.

The camp started Monday and will run the entire week, with a performance of the musical “Soul on Fire” set for 6 p.m. Friday at the church. Making sure all goes as planned is camp director Mindy Reagan. It is her second year as camp director. Before that, she was a youth helper and also did music directing for one year. But her connection to the camp runs much deeper.

“I was a camper here and then youth helper,” Reagan said. She had just finished second grade when she came to the music experience at Fairview. She’s been at Fairview UMC for 14 years.

The camp is designed for children who have an interest in musical performance, drama, choreography and dance, Reagan said. In addition to rehearsals and the finale performance, the campers enjoy outdoor games, Bible time and snacks.

The major undertaking requires some 40 volunteers, Reagan said, with many giving up vacation time to be there. Volunteers like Anna Young, Jill Mertz, Ryan Byrd, Lisa Russell and Dan Cooper do everything from making elaborate props to running the lights and audio to putting dance moves to music.

On Monday afternoon, Kristy Weekley was busy teaching the students the song set, which numbers seven. The sanctuary was abuzz with enthusiasm as they rehearsed for the first time.

Children who wanted to audition for speaking parts and/or solos were invited to audition.

Something to see and hear

“This is a full 40-minute production that we do all in one week,” Reagan said. “We have some kids who just showed up this morning and didn’t have the music yet. By Friday, they will know everything.”

There is no cost to attend the annual camp. Reagan said it started out years ago with about 15 kids and just grew from there. The musical they perform is different each year. Students receive a T-shirt, book and CD.

“This year is the most students we’ve ever had,” she said. “And the most volunteers we’ve had.”

For some, music has only been part of their life experiences at school. Others are more involved and take lessons. The camp is for all of them, Reagan said.

She is a graduate of William Blount High School and Maryville College, and earned a degree in music.

“I definitely wouldn’t have been as invested in music were it not for this camp,” she said.

Come fall, Reagan will be the new music teacher at Mary Blount Elementary, replacing Craig Hurst, who has retired.

It’s about 50% church families and 50% outsiders who attend the camp each year. Reagan said the camp was her first introduction to Fairview. The positive experience led her family to join the church.

Reagan Peters is on hand this week as a volunteer.

She also started out with the camp as a camper first. She attended yearly from the time she was in kindergarten through sixth grade.

Currently 16 years old, Peters is a member of the praise team at Fairview. She said music will continue to be a huge part of her life.

Pam Gildrie, who started the camp 22 years ago, was at the church on Monday. She taught music for 43 years at Sam Houston Elementary School. The camp, she said, is a fun place where students can sing and dance to their hearts’ content.

It was in church where Gildrie fell in love with music. “Music is my thing,” she said.

It isn’t the only summer activity Fairview hosts for the younger set. Vacation Bible School at the church is generally held the second week of June. The youth choir took a summer trip to St. Louis to perform at shelters and other places.

At the end of the day, the goal is for these campers to learn more about God through music, the camp director said.

“The church has played a huge part in my musical journey,” Reagan said. “I have been able to be part of the kids choir, youth choir and adult choir and now I work for the church as the children’s choir coordinator. I love music.”

Melanie joined The Daily Times in the early 90s and has served as the Life section editor since 1993. A William Blount and UT alum, Melanie is generally the early arriver who turns on the lights in the newsroom.

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