This summer, another group of young instrumentalists and vocalists will hone their skills at Ferrwood Music Camp. The historic country setting is home to programs supporting art, health and wellness, and music.

The season will begin at Ferrwood, located on Middle Road near the Drums Elementary/Middle School with an interactive youth health fair and family fun walk through the countryside on Saturday, June 29.

Ferrwood Music Camp 2019Summer programs and camps like Ferrwood and those at the Mann Center in Philadelphia, North Carolina’s Brevard Music Center, and Michigan’s Interlochen Center for the Arts are popular destinations for music students. Instruction is provided by well-recognized teachers in their respective fields. Instruction and practice without the demands of regular schoolwork often brings music students accelerated progress. Students have the option of either day or overnight programs.

Benefactors continue to fund “camperships” to those kids who do not have the means to attend the camp or have displayed positive academic and civic characteristics. Last year there were 63 camperships awarded to attendees, selected by a team of judges that review submitted essays and applications for consideration. The committee, led by Nancy Stasko, is made up of instructors and foundation and community members.

Among the goals, says Phil Latella, volunteer program director at Ferrwood, is to help students improve sight-reading skills, prepare various types of music discipline and work on musicality. “This is a great way to identify talent in the greater Hazleton community that can be nurtured and put on the right path,” he said. “The point is to grow musically, culturally and artistically.”

Ferrwood will reach beyond students who plan to become musicians. The intent is to also involve students who will someday become audience members and donors, or who are simply looking for a creative outlet. The Cellar Dwellarzz Jazz Ensemble of Hazleton has numerous Ferrwood Music Camp alumni as musicians. The community youth group, under the direction of Neil Forte and Jen Gerhard, performed at the White House, the state capital building, the Greater Hazleton Concert Series and numerous other venues. The Hazleton Area School District and the Greater Hazleton Art League are music camp partners. Through the generosity of its sponsors and campership donors, the number of students continues to expand both in the amount of attendees and skill sets.

“If students just want to play for fun, let’s let them play for fun,” says Latella. “Let them meet kids around the greater Hazleton community and express themselves in a way they won’t be able to express themselves otherwise.”

Families requesting campership assistance should contact their music education instructor at school. Applications will be available beginning May 1, and must be submitted no later than May 17.  General registration opens May 21. 

The music camp has been the venue for music instruction and outdoor activities for youth since 1967. Built on the former Kis-Lyn tract in Butler Township, the site was originally constructed by Luzerne County for $12,000 in 1927 and operated as the Luzerne County Fresh Air Camp for children predisposed to tuberculosis and is considered the precursor for the American Lung Association.

Once the disease was eradicated, the site was re-discovered by the Reverend Joseph Ferrara and became the summer home to his music education programs. Father Joe used music as a method for keeping children off the streets and out of trouble.  His belief that all children may not grow up to be great musicians but through music they would learn discipline, commitment and focus, thereby making them better community members, is continued today.

During his lifetime, Father Joe was responsible for creating the Greater Hazleton Chorus, Orchestra, Big Band, Philharmonic Society and Ferrwood Music Camp.

The CAN DO Community Foundation “adopted” Ferrwood Music Camp in 2000. In accordance with its mission of “CPR – Conservation, Preservation and Reclamation – Breathing New Life into our Community,” the foundation pursued the restoration of the camp and, in 2004, was successful in having it placed on the National Register of Historic Sites. The CAN DO Community Foundation and CAN DO, Inc. manages the camp, preserving the Ferrwood links to the heritage of our community.

Restoration at the camp adhered to strict Department of Interior historical guidelines. The main building, which includes boys’ and girls’ dormitory wings, the kitchen, dining hall, community room, showers, bathroom, the expansive screened porch and 115 original windows, was a part of the restoration. The pump house, water supply tank, electrical and plumbing were also upgraded to meet current codes for health and safety.

“The stewardship of operating the music camp has now been passed onto the CAN DO Community Foundation, a wonderful legacy that continues following Father Joe and the Greater Hazleton Philharmonic Society’s stewardship,’’ Gary F. Lamont, CAN DO Community Foundation president, said.

Under the direction of Phil Latella, the instruction and activities continue to expand. In addition to music, the program now actively promotes better health and nutrition, prevention and good decision making. Latella, who was taught by Father Joe, works with an army of volunteers, some of whom attended the camp in their youth, to make Ferrwood come alive. Highly qualified instructors who are respected in their field provide first rate education to the participants. Chris Stamatopoulos, Nancy Stasko, Pat Gendler and Dan Sweeney lead the management, administration, financial and physical plant responsibilities for Ferrwood.

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