A “great campus” helped influence Smith Walbridge’s decision to extend its relationship with Eastern Illinois University for another five years.
“A major issue for us has always been space,” said Barry Houser, director of the Marching Illini at the University of Illinois and director of the Smith Walbridge Clinics. “By the nature of our camps, we need access to what would be the equivalent of seven football fields. Eastern, with all of its green space, provides that to us.”
Founded in 1949, Smith Walbridge was the first camp in the United States to specialize in instruction related to various marching band activities. Intended at first as a baton twirling school, the then-Syracuse, Ind.-based camp soon grew to include programs for majorettes, drill teams, cheerleaders, color guards and marching/concert bands.
In 1990, the clinics were moved to the University of Illinois. In 2000, they were moved again -- this time to the EIU campus -- where they continue to flourish today. Clinics currently include sessions for drum majors, color guards, marching percussion, marching bands, student leaders, marching band directors, drill designers and mace/signal batons. More than 1,000 students from across the country, including 27 states, are represented each summer.
Houser said that in addition to actual “work” space, Smith Walbridge appreciates the fact that its campers can be housed directly on the Charleston campus which, he added, is a “safe environment.”
Mark Hudson, director of Housing and Dining Services at EIU, said that Smith Walbridge “signed their last contract with us five years ago and this year they could decide if they wanted to pick up another five years.
“And they did so, without hesitation, even though they were heavily recruited by other campuses,” he added.
Calling it “the premiere band camp in the country,” Dan Nadler, vice president for student affairs, said he appreciated Smith Walbridge’s continued trust in EIU.
The camps are customarily held at Eastern for three weeks each July.
“I’m happy that we can offer Smith Walbridge the facilities they want and need for their summer activities,” Nadler said.