I realized working with students at KISSM was one of the most fulfilling things I've ever done in my life. I returned each year, not only because it was fun, but because I could see just how much impact I had on the kids.
KISSM changed my life. At the time I was 13 and, of course, didn't want to go. It was school. In the summer. Luckily, my parents forced me to go, and I attended almost every year, after.
Often, in high school, you try to blend in; you find your niche, and you stay there. I found that with my school's music program, but it wasn't until I went to the Kamloops Interior Summer School of Music when I was comfortable just being me all the time. The students all wanted to be there, the teachers were musicians and cared about your learning, and it was just a fun place to be.
I had four glorious Julys as a student at music camp. I made new friends, played all kinds of neat music in Senior Band thanks to the instruction of the wonderful Keith Woodward, and I learned how to pronounce Malagueña properly. I reluctantly starred in a music video in Digital Audio class, and played Gimli on our radio play of The Lord of the Rings (Abridged). I even still have a partial copy of the recording somewhere.
Alas, Grade 12 came around and I needed to focus on my future. I didn't go to camp after graduating that year; instead I got a job at a local pizzeria, and I thought I was past the KISSM stage of my life. Instead, I believed I would focus on getting a degree in journalism.
KISSM wasn't done with me, however. Dick Dickens, who sadly passed away in 2009, was one of the directors for camp, and he knew me through my involvement in the Kamloops Community Band. He suggested I apply to be one of the university student employees; it would be a good job for the summer.
And again, it was a wonderful experience. Oh sure, it was hard work some days – once we started at 8 am and didn't get home until midnight (thank goodness we gave Musical Theatre its own night to perform after that!) – but I got to see another side of camp. As a student, I didnn’t understand the organization, the long hours, and the dedication from the amazing staff that work there every year.
I kept coming back to camp after that: a couple more years as an employee, and I even spent time volunteering on the board. It came to the point where camp was the one thing I looked forward to each year. I had people asking me, “so when are you going to be a music teacher?”
I realized working with the students at camp was one of the most fulfilling things I've ever done in my life. I returned each year, not only because it was fun, but because I could see just how much impact I had on the kids. So I got my teaching degree, and thanks to my work at KISSM, the local school district hired me, and I get to teach music year round.
KISSM has changed a lot over the years. Students I first saw there in Kindergarten are almost ready to graduate, dozens of staff members have come and gone, and it's used four different locations since I started. But it's still the same camp. It's still where I can't wait to go teach every summer. I wouldn't be where I am today – who I am today – if KISSM weren't part of my life.