By Hanan, 1st year camper from Ottawa
When I was first introduced to Ontario Mennonite Music Camp (OMMC) by my church, I wasn't so sure about the idea. I didn’t really know what to expect, but when I arrived I immediately felt like I belonged and that I was about to have the most amazing two weeks of my life.
A normal day at camp is filled with many fun activities that include choir, small group, various recreational activities,chapel, ensemble, practice hour, and free time. Most but not all campers have some musical background, which can vary from stringed instruments, to vocal and wind instruments at all different levels. During the two weeks at camp you can see all the bonds you have made through the music you make together.
During a normal year at camp there would normally be a musical, but due to Covid that wasn’t possible this summer. Instead we did a recital, which included all the ensembles (Orchestra, Piano and Vocal) as well as the choir. The concert was recorded and was premiered on Youtube.
OMMC is not only an amazing music camp, but also has a Christian faith element. Every morning we have chapel. On the first day the staff run chapel, but as camp progresses small camper groups take turns planning the service. Chapel includes hymn singing, bible verse readings, brief talk about the bible verse and a benediction.
There are also fun theme days such as: crazy hair day, Christmas in the summer, whacky utensil day etc. The staff chose the winners for theme days, and you can win a prize.
My favourite parts of camp would have to be my small group and choir. In our small group we would read and talk about scripture. There are about five to six people in each group, and one counsellor leading each group. I enjoyed choir because since Covid started I hadn’t sung with a big group of people. Hearing all the harmonies after not being able to sing with people for so long was a great feeling. Another one of my favourite things about camp was the secret friend challenge. You randomly get another camper's name on the first day, and throughout the next two weeks you give them challenges anonymously plus give them rewards once they have completed their challenge.
If you had told me a year ago that I was going to be going to OMMC I would have said that OMMC was just a silly music camp for kids. I was most definitely wrong. OMMC is a place where you can let yourself be who you are, and no one will judge you no matter how weird you think you might be. Going to OMMC was one of the best things that happened to me last summer. I was going through a tough time in my life, and my parents told me that I was going to go to OMMC.
I was super worried about going because I didn't think that I would know anyone. However, it turned out that even though I knew a few people already, I ended up hanging out with new people. I ended up making super good friends and we still talk all the time. OMMC probably changed the trajectory of my life. As I said, I was having a tough time mentally but at camp I made friends with a group of people who convinced me to change schools (giving my parents a week notice). That was probably one of the best decisions I have made. I wish I had started OMMC when I was younger.
It is amazing to have a place where you can play any and all music and people will appreciate it. The choir was so much fun to be a part of, especially because I hadn't been able to sing in a choir since the beginning of covid. We sang many songs together every day! Every morning we woke up and got to sing songs in the chapel together. Sometimes someone started singing a song for no particular reason, but then everyone just joined in which made it so much fun. I was also part of a band, and it was super cool to be able to play music with so many other talented people. We played loads of cool songs and in the two weeks of camp we learned three songs well enough that we could play them for everyone.
A typical day at camp is dynamic with a range of activities from choir to recreation to Bible studies to preparing a musical! Much of the day is spent making music together in choir, small ensembles, or around evening campfires. Everyone arrives at camp playing a variety of instruments at different levels, and it is amazing to watch how quickly the musical, choir songs, and ensemble pieces come together in only two weeks.
Besides a love for music, OMMC campers and staff find connection through their common faith. In addition to the morning chapel service, one hour each evening is devoted to staff-led small group Bible studies. Some campers and staff have a Mennonite connection, and others do not, but regardless, everyone shares a common Christian faith that allows us to explore scriptures together and grow in our faith.
Both Grebel and OMMC place a large emphasis on community. Whether you’re new to camp or a seasoned camper, OMMC is a welcoming community; it doesn’t take long before you get to know one another and develop long-lasting friendships.
One disappointment of 2020 was not being able to attend camp in-person; however the resourceful OMMC group put their heads together and offered a one-day camp called “OMMC in a Box”. Campers received a box of supplies in the mail, containing everything from songbooks to snacks to a camp T-shirt. Although an online version of camp could not include all the usual traditions, there was one OMMC tradition that even COVID could not stop – wacky utensil meal! It was fun to connect with one another over Zoom and very entertaining to see the wacky utensils in use!
We are thankful for the impact of OMMC on our lives, and we look forward to seeing what summer 2021 holds!
~ Rachael Driediger
OMMC is planning an exciting, musical two weeks of in-person camp, August 14-26, 2022. Registration is already open. OMMC will follow COVID protocols and take guidance from Public Health.