Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Founder of Penny's Band Camp at Eckerd College retires


It was the second day of Penny's Band Camp. The beat of drums echoed through the palm trees as camp director Penny Janowski hurried from one activity to another across the Eckerd College campus.

There was the leadership class in the Roberts Music Center. The color guards worked on choreography in McArthur Gymnasium. The drum majors occupied Miller Auditorium.

As she walked down a path to check on her fourth group, the percussionists, she whispered: "I'm retiring as director.''

Although she would wait until camp was over before making the big announcement, Janowski, 73, was clear on one point: She's stepping down, but she wants Penny's Band Camp to continue.

"I want a younger music educator to take it over," she said. "It's quite a responsibility to take care of other people's kids. I've done it a long time.''

Just as she has done every June since 1972, Janowski welcomed hundreds of Florida high school marching band students to this year's camp, held last week.

Drum majors came to study the postures and steps they would use to lead their bands. Color guard members worked on choreography and handling of their flags, sabers or rifles. Students in leadership class sat in a circle and talked about styles and techniques. Percussionists set the beat.

As a youngster, Janowski was a bassoon player, but as she grew into a teenager, she turned to the baton and ended up twirling her way to head majorette for the Marching Chiefs of Florida State University. She graduated in 1961.

"Having been involved with band and camp as a child myself, I found it so uplifting. I want to be sure students still have access to this community,'' she said.

That would include students like Jake Meadows, a trumpet player from Seabreeze High School in Daytona Beach, attending the camp as a drum major.

"What I've loved most about the camp so far is being with people who love the same things I do,'' he said.

Janowski's instructors are music educators from all over the country, including Eric Allen, a band director from Texas Tech; Doug Moser, the director of the percussion line for the University of South Florida's Herd of Thunder; and David Hedgecoth, a music professor from Ohio State.

She attributes her ability to pull in nationally ranked teachers to her long-standing relationship with the Florida Bandmasters Association. "I've been a judge for the association forever. I started judging when I was a senior at FSU,'' she said.

She has also come to rely on several instructors who return each year, like Michael James, the director of the color guard for Timber Creek High in Orlando. He met Janowski 25 years ago when she hired him to teach dance at her baton, dance and gymnastics studio in Largo.

"She and her camp have grown to become an integral part of what we know as 'high school marching band' in Florida,'' James said. "She has had her fingerprint on it for a long time.''

Camper Scott Howery plays the snare drum for River Ridge High in New Port Richey. He says he also has seen how entrenched Penny's Camp is in the marching band community.

"One of the big reasons I started playing the drums was because as a 10-year-old, I went to a River Ridge High football game with my dad. Coincidentally, there was a drummer who was really cool to the point that I said, wow, I'm ready to learn about music. Well, it turns out that guy is Joel Quina, who is one of my instructors in this camp,'' he said. "There's a strong band network, and it goes way back.''

Janowski has seen changes over the past four decades.

"For example, when I first started, I focused on baton, but a few years ago we realized high schools were not using twirlers in the front of the bands as much. We stopped offering baton and focused instead on the rifles, sabers and flags,'' she said.

"And another interesting thing that has happened is that my drum majors used to be all males. This year, for the first time, we've got more female than male drum majors.''

Although his wife has told him that she's ready to retire, Jim Janowski, a retired Honeywell engineer, shakes his head at the thought. In 1999 when she closed her studio, she said she was going to retire.

"She has said this before. I won't believe it until I see it,'' he said.

Piper Castillo can be reached at or (727) 445-4163.

Founder of Penny's Band Camp at Eckerd College retires 07/02/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 1:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Ratings service Nielsen begins tracking live TV consumption on Hulu, YouTube


    TV ratings service Nielsen will begin tracking how many people watch network TV on YouTube and Hulu to gauge how many viewers broadcast networks have through streaming, the company announced Tuesday.

    Nielsen, a ratings company, is monitoring how many viewers watch live TV on Hulu and YouTube to get a better sense of overall viewership. | [AP]
  2. FWC investigates viral video of shark getting dragged behind speeding boat (w/video)


    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating a viral video that shows a shark being dragged behind a boat on a rope as men laugh each time its body slams the water.

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating a viral video that shows a shark being dragged behind a boat on a rope as men laugh each time its body slams the water. [Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission]
  3. Cheers, whoops for McCain's return, then impassioned speech


    WASHINGTON — In high drama at the Capitol, Sen. John McCain on Tuesday delivered a crucial vote in the Republican drive to dismantle the health care law, a win for President Donald Trump and GOP leaders, and then leveled a broadside at how the GOP got there.

    In this image from video provided by C-SPAN2, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. is embraced by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of N.Y. as he arrives of the floor of the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday. [C-SPAN2 via AP]
  4. For starters: Slumping LoMo, Dickerson not in Rays lineup tonight vs LHP


    1B Logan Morrison and LF Corey Dickerson, two of the main slumpers in the Rays lineup, are not in tonight's lineup with the Orioles throwing LHP Wade Miley.

    Logan Morrison is 0-for-12 on this homestand.
  5. Pence breaks tie as Senate votes to begin debating 'Obamacare' repeal


    WASHINGTON — The Senate narrowly voted Tuesday to begin debate on a bill to repeal major provisions of the health care law, taking a pivotal step forward after the dramatic return of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who cast a crucial vote despite his diagnosis of brain cancer.

    Vice President Mike Pence (R) and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus arrive on Capitol Hill, Tuesday in Washington, D.C. [Getty Images]