When sixth-grader Emily Scotton packed her clarinet to come to her first Summer Music Camp, she had no idea how much it would affect her life.

During her three years as a camper Scotton ‘06 fell in love with UNCG, and when it was time to choose a college, never seriously considered attending anywhere else. She started working on the music camp staff the summer after her freshman year — and never left. Now in her 14th year on staff, the middle school band teacher has the joy of seeing her own students blossom from the music camp experience.

“It’s the best job I’ve ever had and if it were year round, I’d do it year round,” she says.

It’s the best job I’ve ever had and if it were year round, I’d do it year round.

Multiply Scotton’s experience by 50,000 — the number of students who have attended camp during its 30 year history — and you start to see the sustained impact of UNCG’s Summer Music Camp. Thousands of students have spent part of their summer vacation on campus, making music and making friends. Untold numbers have chosen UNCG for college, whether they majored in music or not. Campers-turned-parents send their children to experience central North Carolina in the  height of summer, embraced by humid warmth and melodic sounds. Others return to help and teach, paying forward their camp experience to a new generation of musicians.

Overseeing it all is the man who started it all: Dr. John Locke, UNCG director of bands and the camp’s founder and director. He started the camp — the first in any discipline on campus — in the early 1980s as a way to provide a solid summer music experience for students and to introduce them to UNCG.

“Things were precariously slim when I got here,” he remembers. “There were three trumpet players. Three. We desperately needed to recruit some students.”

Locke spent his first UNCG spring break driving to two, three, four schools a day, talking to band students and gathering addresses on 3×5 index cards so he could send a camp brochure to the students’ parents. Thirty years later, completed applications flood inboxes shortly after the forms are posted online. Locke and his staff typically receive 1,600 applications from prospective campers in February alone. Recent camps have averaged more than 1,700 students from throughout the United States and several foreign countries over two weeks.

Locke hires 150 professional staff each year to teach campers, pulling from talented students in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance and from the ranks of camp alumni who have gone on to pursue careers in the music field. Camp is “one big learning lab for our own students,” he says.

Thirty years in, Locke’s passion for his work hasn’t waned. Music Camp “is year-round for me,” he says. “There’s not a week that goes by when I’m not doing something for camp.”

“I don’t think I have another 30 years in me — but I’m not done. I’m not sure what I’d do without it.”

Photography by Chris English, University Relations