COLUMBIA — When Desirée Johnson was about 11, her father encouraged her to pick among the bassoon, the French horn and the oboe.
"He showed me pictures of all three and played what they sounded like," Johnson recalled.
She picked the oboe. Now, at 16, Johnson is spending the week at the Joy of Music Summer Camp at the Missouri Theatre, learning about music history and theory and preparing for a concert Sunday.
“I’ve always had a love for music," Johnson said. "I wanted to get involved in the Missouri Youth Orchestra and improve musically."
The Joy of Music Summer Camp, a program of the Missouri Symphony Society, helps children 8 to 18 become better players under the guidance of professional musicians. They learn in groups and individually, and each day they get to practice with the Missouri Symphony Orchestra, which is in the midst of its Hot Summer Nights festival. On Wednesday evening, the campers performed with the orchestra on its "Captain Kirk's Guide to the Musical Galaxy" concert.
The Missouri Symphony Society, a nonprofit organization that established the Missouri Symphony Orchestra, formed the Joy of Music Summer Camp to provide youth music education programs.
This is the camp's third year, and more than 70 children are participating. They are encouraged to choose one or two of three programs: the orchestral program for wind and percussion players; the chamber music program for advanced musicians; and the choral program for singers.
Each program is divided into two sections: the allegro group for older students and the vivace group for younger participants.
Shortly before noon Wednesday, the allegro group listened to their teacher, Erica Manzo, play a low note on her clarinet. At Manzo's request, Desirée Johnson played a high note on her oboe at the same time.
"Notice the difference," Manzo told the group, using it as an example of music theory.
Charlie Stevens, 11, said she likes coming to the camp because she learns different singing techniques.
"Everyone tries and works hard here," said 12-year-old Sydney Wahl, who plays the French horn.
At noon, the young musicians rushed to the theater stage for a daily recital.
Members of the Missouri Symphony Orchestra lead the seven-day program. Maestro Kirk Trevor, who directs the orchestra and the camp's Chamber Music Program, said he thinks its success is due to the variety in the curriculum — the teaching of music theory and history in conjunction with performance.
Trevor said the philosophy behind the camp is to make the rehearsal experience an opportunity to learn.
The camp focuses on solo performances because of its goal to "create an environment unhindered by performance requirements or pressures," according to the camp's written philosophy.
"We try not to specialize," Trevor said. "We try to make the camp an experience geared toward the joy of music."
The Joy of Music Summer Camp will conclude with a public concert, "Classic Tunes and 'Toons" at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Missouri Theatre, 203 S. Ninth St.
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.