Summer Rock Camp 2016

Summer Rock Camp 2016

The mad rush of the crews at Summer Rock Camp ushering the long line of people into their seats greeted me as I walked into @4410 on Sunday, August 14th. I had been multiple times before, for various open mic nights, however, I had never been to Rock Camp. I was excited, and the atmosphere mirrored my feelings; I walked in about five minutes before showtime and room was already filled to the brim, and it would only get more crowded after each show. I could see that the kids were fired up, all lined up backstage. As Jerry and Menzie got the camp into gear, I could tell I was in for a whirlwind of a day. The Summer Rock Camp 2016 concert was officially underway.

As the show started Jerry said what makes their camp special is that they are in the process of developing musicians and that this was one of the best crops of bands to go through the camp. He set the bar high and the kids delivered. As the day went on, show after show, I found myself completely in awe of the talent I had seen and unable to pick a favorite. When I interviewed some of the kids after the show I was stunned to hear some had never played an instrument before. These kids were able to learn three or four songs, on instruments they had little experience with, and executed them with what seemed like near perfection in two weeks.

Maybe some were just gifted. However, I think it had something to do with the amazing set of coaches each band was paired with. Aaron Mason, Alex Williams, Anne Albright, Ben Tufts, Dan Peterson, Griffin Semple, and Michael Bailey did such an unbelievable job bringing out these kids’ talents. After being able to talk to the young musicians, it was clear that they had such admiration for their mentors. Each band obviously had different experiences, Jack Meador from the band Nine Mile Silence described his relationship with mentor Ben Tufts as, “Very unique. It felt like he really knew me. He’s a great guy and he taught me a lot. I played two instruments I never thought I could before.” Not only were they great role models and instructors, the coaches also had a playful relationship with their bands! Lauren Vega from Not a Boy Band! stated that, “It was really fun because she would joke around but at the same time she would be like ‘Get to work’. Like have fun and everything and joke around and have pizza but at the same time if we got out of hand she would set us back on track.” The motivation from the coaches led to two great weeks for all of the bands.

For the duration of the camp, the kids spent the two weeks working with the band members and coaches to pick out songs and music to play for the final performance. Morgan Lewellen, a member of 15 Minute, explained to me how the process worked. Each band member would spend the first 45 minutes practicing individually, usually on their parts of the music or anything they felt they needed to work on. The bands would join together in the “Jam Hub” and collaborate on the songs. After that, if they had time, they would go onto the main stage and practice there. Cameron Thistle from the band These Kids said that he thought, “The practices were almost as fun as the show. They really brought out all the personalities of the band, and it really got to show you how you were going to build up to the show, and from the first day to the last day just how the band has progressed and how the end result is.”

One of the best things that I saw at the camp wasn’t the music itself (although that was definitely great). For me, seeing how close that the kids were with the members of their bands honestly made me very happy. It was clear these kids had gained immense confidence, great memories, and life-long friends. The girls from Not a Boy Band! said that some had come to camp insecure, but gained better social skills and learned more about teamwork. One member, Kohanna Haley, expressed that they were, “Learning how to make new friends. I got the music but I feel like it also helped me learn social skills. It was just fun and a good experience.” It wasn’t just the social skills though, everyone left the camp with tremendous musical skills. Joe Bendekovic from These Kids said that he gained a, “Better understanding of musicality, of dynamics and just a better understanding of what music is and how it is to play with someone. As a guitar player you get kind of selfish and it’s easy to just worry about yourself and how you sound but to kind of turn your mind off and be more conscientious of other things, it’s a big transition and I kind of got a taste of it.” Whether it was the actual musical skills gained or the social skills that drive them, the kids learned a variety of things. Emily Stedman a member of These Kids put it best, “I’ve been doing rock camp for the past 5-6 years and Summer [Pittman] has been doing it longer than me, almost everyone here has done the camp before and each year you get a new experience and each year you meet new people.” She added “Summer and I have come back and helped other bands, so we’ve been doing the bands for so long and now we get to help out with new people and watch them grow and learn how to be in a band. You just see how excited the kids get about it and, someone told me it was the best experience of their life and that’s what I think it means to me and the kids.” The memories these kids have gained will clearly last a lifetime.

To say I enjoyed being apart of the experience would be an understatement. I was truly blown away by the level of talent coming from all the bands, and the way that they performed and interacted with each other. Although I did not get a chance to see the entire two week process go down, Menzie expressed that, “The experience that they bring to us is simply phenomenal. I just had a professional videographer who [films] folks all the time, and photographers who we had today, one of them shoots live performances as a living, both guys came up to me and one said ‘Dude for about 45 seconds I was disoriented by what I was hearing, I couldn’t even focus on what I was doing.’ And that’s just a statement and testament to the quality that these kids strive to bring. They’re great kids, and every kid delivers and we love them all, but when you see the final result of it, it’s amazing.” That statement summed up the day, and to be frank, I couldn’t agree more.

– Heather Trobridge