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

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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.

About Vonecia Carswell

Vonecia is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org

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