Music camp renamed to honor Collins

Matt Belton, left, Grayson Simmons, center, and Joshua Stevens entertain during camp.

Carson Wilkins, left, Hailey Nichols, center, and Isaiah Collins perform as a clarinet trio during the Joyce Collins Music Camp.

PILOT MOUNTAIN — First Presbyterian Church of Pilot Mountain hosted its annual Music Enrichment Camp last week. And while the format and many of the faces were familiar, the name of this year’s camp was changed to honor the memory of co-founder Joyce Collins.

The two-day Joyce Collins Music Camp attracted some 45 campers, leaders and helpers, joining together for a variety of music-based instruction, interaction and activities. The camp’s new name recognizes the inspiration and numerous contributions of Joyce Collins, who passed away late last summer.

According to longtime camp leader and music teacher Sherri Collins, Joyce Collins had played an integral role in starting a camp some 13 years ago for students with an interest or talent in music. While the idea came after a suggestion from her sister, Diane Walker, the passion for the camp was based on her love of helping children discover the beauty of music.

“When Joyce passed away,” Sherri Collins said, “it occurred to me how much she influenced the direction and importance of music at First Presbyterian Church. She not only directed the choir for nearly 40 years but also put into practice the idea for a summer music camp at our church.

“Joyce, having taught elementary school for 30-plus years, used storytelling and music-related books for sharing her love of music in the camp,” Collins related. “I was accompanist for the church as well as music teacher in the Surry County Schools at that time and I agreed to work with her to implement a camp that first summer. I shared my love of music through recorder study and instrument-playing, singing, composer-related listening and musical drama.”

Quickly establishing a tradition, that first camp featured talented area musicians including Diane Walker on accordion and Sherri Collins’ brother, Wilson Smith, on organ as well as assisting and teaching wherever needed. Subsequent camps would feature student performers such as fiddle player Mason Bowman, adult presenters like musicologist, musician and instrument-maker Ken Bloom and even retired University of Connecticut professors of music education and voice, respectively, Drs. Ed and Carol Anne O’Connor.

In recent years challenges including Joyce Collins’ declining health, had emphasized the need for youthful, energetic leadership at the camp.

“Grayson Simmons, a rising senior and a student of both Wilson (Smith) and myself, approached me about directing the music camp as a senior project,” Sherri Collins said. “’Hallelujah!’ I thought. This was the answer to our dilemma and a promise for the future. Not only did Grayson organize, recruit and implement the camp beautifully that year but he volunteered to continue for this year. Again he rose beautifully to the occasion with his usual staffers of dedicated, talented and most willing student helpers, student attendees and adult leaders.”

According to Collins, Simmons already has agreed to direct next year’s camp. He refused payment for his role this year but implemented rewards for student helpers and student attendees.

“We are honored to have such a fine young Christian man to serve as director,” Collins said, “one who is selfless and committed to serving the Lord through music. Accepted to the school of music education at UNC-G after auditioning on piano, Grayson is awaiting scholarship assistance in order to attend this prestigious school.”

The camp’s new Cole Gibson Award, named after a past helper who dedicated 13 consecutive years of involvement with the music camp, was given to a helper selected as an example of the qualities of service, musicianship, dedication and Christian discipleship. The first recipient of this award was Mitchell Edwards.

This year’s camp featured Simmons as director and Sherri Collins serving as advisor and instrumental coordinator. Other contributions included Smith as director of a musical drama, “The Good Samaritan,” with Vanessa Ibarra leading storytelling sessions, including “Jonah in the Whale.” Adult leader Amanda Goins shared arts and crafts using “The Good Samaritan” theme while Pamela Parker, Susan Shelton and Ken Shelton offered management and registration services.

Highlights of the camp included original compositions by Jacob Smith (piano solo) and Hailey Nichols (clarinet trio) that were performed and incorporated into “The Good Samaritan” drama. The closing number each day featured everyone joining hands and moving in a circle to the African song, “We Are Singing for the Lord is Our Light.” Benediction each day was rendered by Mitchell Edwards.

“This year’s camp went well,” Grayson Simmons said. “It was smoother than last year and everyone had a great time. It was a successful camp.”

Dean Palmer may be reached at 336-351-4131 or

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