Bye, Bye Miss American Pie: Summer music camp canceled after contract dispute

By on February 28th, 2013

Gillian Foster, 16, was looking forward to her fifth year at the University of Florida’s music camp, but her hopes were crushed after receiving a text message Monday from fellow band camp members that it was canceled.

“I was so upset. I actually cried because camp is my favorite part of the whole summer,” the Bloomingdale High School student said. “I’m not going to do another camp at a different school because the only band I want to be a part of in college is the Gator band.”

The aspiring Gator is one of many middle and high school students from around the country who won’t be participating in the UF camp.

Gary Smith is president of Smith Walbridge Clinics, an outside vendor working with UF’s College of Fine Arts to host the camps, said the decision to cancel this year came as a result of a disagreement between his firm and UF officials.

“They canceled this year because the College of Fine Arts wanted to take 20 percent of the net profits from our operation as an outside vendor,” Smith said. “This was a new policy that was just sprung on us a few weeks ago, unfortunately, after we had spent a lot of money on brochures and advertising.”

Smith said he spent about $3,000 for a convention, brochures and a website, which has been taken down. This would’ve been the company’s second year collaborating with UF. They ran the camps in June and July of last year on the UF campus.

“Once we found out they would not negotiate any kind of an agreement that would be more advantageous, then we canceled it. It was after quite a bit of corresponding trying to make a counteroffer, which was refused.”

Smith said he offered to donate about $2,000.

David Waybright, UF director of bands, said the UF School of Music dean and director agreed to cancel the camps, but numerous officials from the department could not elaborate on the reasoning to cancel the camp when contacted by WUFT on Thursday.

No one had signed up for the program, Smith said, but he received inquiries about registering and had to notify parents of the changes.

Jamie Burg, director of band at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, wasn’t aware of the camp cancellation, but she understands how important it is for students to attend summer band camp.

While most of her students attend the band camp at P.K. Yonge, she said about a half a dozen of her students attend camps outside of the school.

“The outside camps are incredibly helpful because they help a lot of the students develop leadership skills,” Burg said. “They’re given information in a different format, and it can be really helpful just having it being explained from somebody else.”

Smith believes it’s a huge loss for everyone.

“It was a great public relations and service for the university. No other university had a program like this, so I think it’s a huge mistake,” he said.

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  • Curt

    I feel 20% is very reasonable. Most parks and recreation departments have contract instructors, outside camps and more that round out their classes. The contract instructor or camp get the use of the recreation departments facilities, a write-up in their activity guide and they take care of registration. A typical split is 60/40 with the 60% going to the contract instructor or camp.

    Of course, the University definitely should have made this a condition well before now. However, Smith Wallbridge Clinics should have had a contract in place before they began marketing the camp.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sean.e.smith.14 Sean Evan Smith

      While you think that is reasonable, Smith Walbridge pretty much runs like a non-profit. What is left after expenses is used for marketing and operating costs. They actually LOST money on Gatorland camps last year. So where do you get the 20%? Do you take it from the instructors pay? If so, then how to you lure quality instructors when you are going to pay them 20% less for their time. Do you raise the tuition 20%? Then you lose students to cheaper camps or they just can’t afford to come at all. Raising camp tuition 20% in this economy is not smart business. So what you have here is a lose lose. Students lose their camps. UF loses recruiting and outreach. Instructors lost summer income. Smith Walbridge lost all their marketing and convention costs.

      • Curt

        They run like a non-profit or they are a non-profit? Those are 2 very different things. If they are non-profit there are grants and other fundraising opportunities available. If they are not non-profit then they should not run the business like they are. THAT’s not smart business.

        If the economy is bad then instructors cannot expect to get paid very well. However, the economy is much better then it was so raising tuition a bit shouldn’t be a problem. Also, there are always ways to cut costs or increase them. For example, if you give everyone camp t-shirts then stop. If you don’t give away t-shorts then sell them as an add-on. That’s just one of many examples on how camps can cut costs or raise funds.

        If you’re afraid of losing campers to cheaper camps then something is wrong. Are these camps of equal quality? How can they charge less and stay in business? How is it that their business model works but Smith Wallbridges doesn’t unless someone donates the use of their facilities?

        Lose-Lose? I’m not so sure. UF will probably find an organization that will pay for the use of the facilities (win). They must feel that they don’t need Smith Wallbridge’s camp as a recruitng tool. They are doing fine. The youth that were coming to camp will still go to UF when the time comes if that was the draw of the camp in the first place. The campers will be upset, yes, but they will find another camp – one that either they can afford or they may be willing to pay more for an experience equal to what they were getting from Smith Wallbridge.

        Perhaps Smith Wallbridge should take that 20% from their marketing and convention budget. If these camps are so good and have such quality instructors then most of the campers should be returning and the ones that are too old should be replaced by new campers that have heard of the program; word of mouth = free marketing.

        The bottom line is that they were upset that UF wanted to charge them 20%. I get that. I would be upset as well and would feel it’s unfair. Yes, UF should have either told them that this would be a possibility last summer or they should have started off by charging 5-10% and gradually increased it every year. I’m guessing that someone wanted to come in and pay UF for the space and they saw dollar signs. Is it fair? No. Is it good business? Maybe, maybe not. Will they bring in money to fund some part of the University? Yes. You have to figure that UF had expenses as well – a staff member to open and monitor the facility, custodian on duty to clean and restock the restrooms after they were used each day, electricity, water, trash. All these expenses add up. The way I see it, UF was the one losing money for allowing Smith Wallbridge to be there for free.

  • http://www.facebook.com/linnea.campnavigator Linnea Campnavigator

    At long last, parents of children who are going to summer camp for the first time have a choice.


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