Nick Weiser is a happy camper -- happy with the Midwestern Music Camp at Kansas University, that is.
Weiser, a 16-year-old from Dighton, a town of about 1,300 people in western Kansas, has come back to participate in the camp for the sixth summer in a row.
This time around, he's one of only 20 students who have been accepted into the camp's Midwestern Piano Academy, an intensive seminar for young people in grades 8-12 who want to focus on piano performance.
"It's a great experience," says Weiser, a Dighton High School senior, of his time spent at the camp.
"Overall, you meet a lot of people and you learn a lot. It's getting to perform with different groups and getting to have experiences I can't have in a small town. It's a great chance to interact with people from throughout Kansas and the United States."
That's music to the ears of David Bushouse, assistant chairman of KU's department of music and dance. He's been in charge of the Midwestern Music Camp since 1980 and has been associated with it since 1969.
"We run a comprehensive music program; we're more than just a band camp," he says.
"We bring in famous outside conductors (to work with students). People know the traditions and the quality. Kids who come to our camp after attending another camp notice a big difference in the level of quality and competition here."
This summer marks the 68th anniversary of the camp, which is broken down into two divisions, junior and senior.
The junior division, for students in grades 6-8, was June 8-14. The senior division, which is for students in grades 8-12, started June 15 and runs through Saturday.
Participation at KU's camp, held on the university's campus, remains as strong as ever. This year, according to Bushouse, approximately 950 young musicians will attend the camp.
They come from 29 states -- from Florida to Alaska -- to study with talented peers and widely respected instructors.
Of course, the camp attracts plenty of Kansans, as well as many young people from the Lawrence area. This summer, there are at least 175 music campers from Lawrence -- 127 in the junior division, 48 in the senior division.
"We reach the same number of students that we did overall in the 1980s. One of the things I've seen is a lot more strings; we're running two orchestras at one time in both the junior and senior divisions," Bushouse says.
Many people learn about the Midwestern Music Camp through the camp's Web site. Others hear about it by word of mouth.
Kathleen Tennyson came from Bridgewater, Va., to attend camp at KU. This is the 17-year-old's second time at the camp.
"My private teacher recommended it to me; he's been sending students here for 30 years. There's a music camp in Harrisonburg, at James Madison University, but it's not as prestigious as this one," says Tennyson, who plays the oboe and will be a senior at Turner Ashby High School in the fall.
Why has she chosen to return to the camp?
"Just the opportunity to play so much every day. We rehearse six hours a day; it's an endurance test," she says. "But I'd like to perform (as a musician) for a living, so it's a good boot camp for what I want to do."
Like Weiser, Will Brubaker, a senior at Lawrence High School, has participated at the camp for six summers.
"The atmosphere here is more challenging (than at school). There's more competitiveness in the sections," says Brubaker, 17, who plays the bassoon.
"It's good to play in the summer, so you don't fall behind others."