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. Whatever USF has to say about Temple waits till Thursday


    "The holes were wide open. Anyone could have run through them."

    South Florida Bulls cornerback Mazzi Wilkins (23) intercepts a pass during the second half of the home opener for the South Florida Bulls against the Stony Brook Seawolves at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. 'Rick and Morty' Rickmobile is coming to Tampa next week


    We now have details on when and where Rick and Morty's belching Rickmobile will be when the rolling promo for the cult hit Adult Swim show swings through Tampa on Sept. 27.

    Ricky and Morty fans will head to the Lowry Parcade and Tavern in Tampa on Sept. 27 where a pop-up merch store that will operate out of a Rick Sanchez-shaped truck.
  3. Joe Henderson: Other good works can't balance theft from vulnerable victims


    What price can you put on your good name?

    This renovated group home once was operated by HARC. The group's former CEO Richard Lilliston was credited with raising millions for the agency but has been sentenced to prison for stealing Social Security from clients with developmental disabilities. [Times file]
  4. Clean Bandit postpones Oct. 3 concert at the State Theatre until 2018


    Believe it or not, here's a concert postponement that DOESN'T have anything to do with Hurricane Irma.

    Clean Bandit
  5. Five reasons why Kentucky can beat Florida for the first time since 1986


    By Matt Baker

    GAINESVILLE — Florida's 30-game winning streak over Kentucky is one of the most impressive feats in the country.

    Florida Gators offensive lineman Martez Ivey (73) celebrates Florida Gators running back Mark Thompson's  (24) touch down in the first quarter, putting Florida on the board 6-0 during the game between the University of Florida and the University of Kentucky in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated Kentucky 45-7. ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times