Upon taking up the baritone saxophone in high school, Jack Furlong felt that he had found his calling.
He went on to earn degrees in music from Lafayette College and William Paterson University, developing his skills as a musician, composer and bandleader to the point where he had his own jazz quartet and could gather together talented musicians for a 12-piece orchestra that played special events and weddings.
Three years ago Furlong, 33, left a job in Lafayette’s music department to spend more time in Hopewell helping to care for his girlfriend, Katelyn Mulligan, who had been seriously injured in an accident. Looking for ways to get back into the local music scene, he had a thought: while many in the Hopewell Valley grow up playing instruments, most eventually stop playing, as there are few opportunities for them to give public performances.
So he and fellow musician Sean Ryan decided to start up the nonprofit Hopewell Valley Community of Associated Music Projects—HV CAMP for short—to give area musicians a way to put their talents on display.
Working in conjunction with groups such as the Hopewell Valley Arts Council and the Hopewell Valley Children’s Theatre, HV CAMP has already launched its first project: the Hopewell Valley Pops Orchestra, open to musicians age 13 and older. No auditions are required to join the group, which consists of all woodwinds, brass, strings, percussion and other rhythm instruments.
The group, about 20 members strong as of mid-March, rehearses under Ryan’s direction on Thursday evenings in Hopewell Borough at the Children’s Theatre studio, 57 Hamilton Ave. Furlong hopes they will reach the point where they can hold their first concert in May.
Down the road, he sees the group doing two seasons a year, one from February to April with a concert in May, and another from September to November with a concert in December. He wants members to put serious time and effort into the orchestra, knowing that they will have long breaks during the year.
The pops orchestra is the first of a set of ensembles HV CAMP is cooking up. They hope to introduce a second orchestra with entrance by audition only, as well as a jazz ensemble consisting of Hopewell Valley Central High School alumni. Furlong graduated from CHS in 2001.
Furlong grew up in Hopewell Township just outside the borough, and lives today in the township just outside Pennington. His mother, Bernadette, also a CHS grad, is music director for the Hopewell Valley Children’s Theatre, and his sister, Jessica Eng, who is three years younger, does choreography for the Children’s Theatre.
Furlong started dabbling in music in fourth grade, taking violin first and sax later. He settled on the baritone sax as his primary instrument in high school.
He started his quartet as a senior at Lafayette, eventually playing gigs in New York, Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley and in between. He put his full-time music career on hold to help care for Mulligan, but with her nearing a full recovery, he is starting to get back into the swing. In January, the quartet performed at the 1867 Sanctuary in Ewing.
“Too many people stop making music regularly once they graduate from high school or college,” Furlong said. “Music may not be their profession, but that doesn’t mean it should stop. These opportunities give everyone the chance to continue to play music in a comfortable environment.”
Interested musicians are welcome to go to a rehearsal. Furlong said the ensemble can use more woodwind players, string players and percussionists. Those interested can sign up by visiting the HV CAMP Facebook page and clicking on the sign-up button.
HV CAMP is the second nonprofit that Furlong and Ryan have started together. They are also the founders of OSIP, or Outstanding Sportsmanship is Paramount, a charity aimed at improving sportsmanship in youth sports.