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      Band camp offers more than music

      For most of the summer, the Iron County Youth Camp is filled with kids hiking and canoeing.

      Also known as Camp Batawagama, the facility, partially funded by county taxpayers, hosts a band camp for one week a year. Over 170 seventh through twelfth graders have been inspired by music this week. They have rehearsed, received private lessons, and watched others perform.

      The camp, located in the heart of Iron County, is alive with music from 7:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. It is Bryson Heimerl's fourth summer as a camper.

      "Our school is small so we don't have a whole lot of people in our band, but coming here with a big band, you hear a lot more sounds, way more instruments," said Heimerl.

      The junior from West Iron County high school is joined by students from across the Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin who split into separate middle and high school bands. That's not the only unique aspect of Camp Batawagama.

      "Where else can you go in the world where there's a piece written every year just for those kids that are there?" said Bob Spring, a clarinet teacher at Batawagama and a faculty member at Arizona State University.

      Spring was explaining the work of his colleague, composer Bob Hanson. For the past 13 years, Hanson has written a new piece of music for the Batawagama bands.

      "I've gotten to know the kids, they've gotten to know me, and I think that's made a big difference that they find out that a composer isn't some ogre," said Hanson.

      It is only the first summer at Batawagama for Grace Feliz, but the Marquette eighth grader immediately fell in love with the camp. She has enjoyed its traditional aspects like singing and being outside.

      "It's just kind of one-on-one with the wilderness, and you've got's absolutely wonderful," said Feliz.

      The strong values of Batawagama also resonate with the faculty.

      "I come here one week out of the year to learn how to live the rest of the weeks," Spring said.

      Teachers, like Spring, keep students like Heimerl coming back. "I'm especially thankful for the faculty members, all the instructors that came to help us," he said.

      The bands will give a final performance this Saturday evening at 7:30 central time in the Crystal Falls-Forest Park gymnasium.