Sixty years ago, Gus Noland played trombone and sang in the high school glee club. Peggy Daly (Noland) played the bass viol in her High School Orchestra. For many years Gus sang in Barbershop Quartets. As parents they embraced & encouraged music in their home & had their own family band, with all 5 children participating. Their oldest son, Michael, played the cello in the orchestra and sang in Ruth Phillips elite madrigal choir at Bella Vista High School. He also conducted the first youth choir at Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church. He obtained a B.A. & Masters in Music and eventually became a choral director for Christ Community Church, Folsom Lake College, and sang with the renowned San Francisco based group, "Chanticleer".
Ten years ago when they retired - Gus, B.A. Pomona College, L.L.D from U.C.L.A. and M. Div. from San Anselmo, & Peggy (20 years as a Head Start Preschool Teacher), made a spiritual commitment to organize a summertime choral camp. From the beginning Gus' dream has been to inspire young men, as well as young women to sing.
Today both orchestras and choirs are disappearing from the public schools. The prospect of music in children's education has become dismal. With state government & school districts cutting funding for the arts, and private lessons becoming more costly, the need for supplemental music became greater.
Campers have come from all over the Sacramento Region: Davis, Yuba, Roseville, Granite Bay, Rocklin, El Dorado Hills, Folsom, Rancho Cordova, Elk Grove, Laguna, Marysville, Grass Valley, Colfax, Placerville, Winters, & Fairfield; The Bay Area: Vacaville, Napa, Pleasanton; and even Los Angeles. There have been campers from out of state: Alaska, Arizona, Alabama, Kansas, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, and Washington and from the countries of Argentina and France. All were seeking excellence in music.
Camp began at the Community of the Great Commission at Foresthill. The first camp enrolled 78 campers and staff. The first 2 years of camp offered three choirs. After 2 years of homemade flyers, they formulated a professional brochure & renamed the camp Sierra Mountain Choral Camp. Many of the current campers have returned to camp 3, 4, 5, or 6 years. Some have completed college and begun teaching careers in music. One original camper went to camp for ten years straight.
The addition of a second choir for boys with treble or "unchanged" voices increased interest in camp. A computer lab for sight singing education added a new dimension to the program. Camp activities expanded to accommodate the varied interests of the campers. The capacity of the campground was stretched by adding 2 large tents for housing the senior boys, and became the birthplace of the camp rock band, "IN-TENTS" (aka "Amadeus").
June 1998 was a time of great loss for camp with the deaths of Michael Noland, their son and a camp music staff member, and of Christi Cavillari, a popular girl's counselor and member of the Senior Girls choir. Parents and staff rallied around to help hold camp together at such a sad time. In 1999 the camp was bursting at the seams with 120 staff and campers. In 2000, 140 campers registered and 20 staff and camp moved to the location at Sierra Pines Camp at Twin Bridges, CA on highway 50 with a capacity of 200 people.
The year 2003 brought a mixture of worry, excitement & grief. Gus had some serious health issues prior to camp and it was the first year he had not attended. A contract with Mondavi for the 2004 10th anniversary concert came in fall 2003 and camp lost a treasured camper & counselor, alumnus of 6 years, Jeremiah Kregger in December 2003. Our 10th anniversary concert in June 2004 at the Robert and Margrett Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts was spectacular and the pinnacle of our camp's history. Gus was very, very proud of what had been accomplished.
Sadly, 2005 was also a time to say goodbye. Camp founder Augustus "Gus" Noland passed away in March and left a great hole in the hearts of family, staff and alumni. While camp went on as usual, Gus was greatly missed and the campers and staff paid tribute to him during our 11th annual concert. More goodbyes were said at the end of camp 2005 to our host campsite, Sierra Pines, as we realized we had outgrown their capacity and ability to keep up with our program growth rate. For 3 years we had been placing campers on waiting lists and turning some away for lack of housing and rehearsal facility space. Staff members were so crowded some slept in the cars for ‘privacy'. 3 X 200 = time for a new camp!!
Each year the program has expanded and 2006 is no exception! We have rented a new facility, Diamond Arrow Christian Conference Center near Nevada City with a capacity of 468 campers and staff. New facilities with 350+ acres to explore, including a climbing wall, a zip-fly line, swimming pool and beautiful hiking trails near the Yuba River.
Seven years ago camp added an orchestra for all ages. After one year, we added a second orchestra for advanced students. Sierra Mountain Choral Camp became Sierra Mountain MUSIC Camp. Now in 2006, we are able to offer a full symphony experience with the help of our Guest Conductor Michael Neumann, of the Sacramento Youth Symphony.
We have been fortunate to have loyal staff return year after year; specifically Bill Zinn has been with camp going on 10 years and is truly loved by his senior girls. Michelle Parker joined the camp staff in 1999 as store manager, registrar & Administrative Assistant and is now the Executive Director. Ten years ago, Rick Croom came on board as the Program Director. His wife, Charlotte Hackett-Croom, added a fantastic craft program. Craig & Ronit Rieser have been all around helpers: arts & crafts, assisting the strings program, photographer/videographer, leading hikes, running errands to town & on occasion, ambulance driver. Alan Brattesani has been videotaping our camp concerts for 6 years now and the tapes/DVD's are quite professional looking thanks to him.
And of course, there is the Board of Directors our Parent organization, Rancho De Los Amigos. They have been especially supportive, Superior Court Judge Talmadge Jones, Attorney Ron Leachman, Casey Noland, John Henderson, Jim Failor, Peggy Noland and Jerry Shantz. Jerry Shantz has retired this year after 10 years as bookkeeper & treasurer. We are forever grateful for their encouragement and loyalty.
In 2005, a new board was created to allow better efficiency in the operation of camp's daily needs. Carol Hoge, Cliff Connelly, Julie Ueltzen, Rick Croom, Bob Kruse and Peggy Noland now oversee those functions with the help of the Executive Director. All have been part of camp for years or have music backgrounds. We are lucky to have them on board!
Our 10th anniversary celebration wouldn't have been possible without the volunteers of our Mondavi planning committee, too numerous to mention all by name, in their efforts to sell tickets, fund raise, solicit program ads and publicize the concert. We thank them all! We wish to also thank the parents, fans, friends, and family! Without their support, scholarship, gifts, & recruiting, etc., camp wouldn't happen!
"With Strong & Loyal Staff, Alumni & Friends, perhaps now Peggy & I can relax. Our visions seem to be coming true. God willing Sierra Mountain Music Camp will outlive its founders. In Our hearts rings this theme song, ‘I Believe in Music'." Gus Noland.