Kids “band” together at rock camps.
“I got a drum kit for Christmas when I was nine,” explains Cole, now 15. “And that’s when I discovered rock!”
Just a few years later, Cole discovered Camp Rock! “It was my best week of the year,” Cole told his parents after an intense week of jamming with other like-minded kids. Since then, he has been making music at Camp Rock, part of the Interprovincial Music Camp in Perry Sound every summer. And he’s heading back in August.
Why? “Because it was fun the first time, fun the second and third time, and I know it will be fun this time!”
Sisters Sarah, 14, and Emily, 10, say rock camp is an exciting and collaborative way to learn music. Both attended Peterborough’s Rock Camp for Girls, a week-long day camp where they played and performed in a band.
“With traditional music lessons, the teacher gives you a piece to learn, but in rock camp they show you chords or beats and then you improvise,” says Sarah. Adds Emily, “In music lessons you are by yourself, but in rock camp you learn together.”
A fairly recent phenomenon, rock camps have become increasingly popular since the release of the hit movie, School of Rock. Kids can learn guitar, piano, drums, bass or vocals, and sometimes saxophone and trumpet.
Plus, they get to play in a band, write songs, or learn new ones, practise together, and perform in concerts.
A different approach
“Rock camp appeals to kids who aren’t necessarily in the typical high school music program,” says Anne Fleming-Read, director of the Interprovincial Music Camp. “They might be playing guitar on their own and need the boost that playing with others can bring.”
Kids don’t have to know how to read music before they come to camp, says Fleming-Read. They learn “tabs” or tablature, which is a simpler method of reading music, where the fingering is shown. It’s faster, and better suited to certain learning styles.
Many kids who attend Rock Camp for Girls are complete novices, says founder Jean Greig. “Fifty percent have never played an instrument before, and the others might have taken a few piano or guitar lessons,” says Greig. “If they already play an instrument, we might suggest that they learn another one in order to challenge themselves.”
Playing in bands gives the kids an opportunity “to learn from each other,” says Greig.
“Kids quickly learn that there are no solo acts at rock camp,” says Fleming-Read. “It’s just wonderful to watch the transition in the kids – they come as individuals, but leave as band members. They give each other tremendous support – if someone flubs up on stage, others cover for them and it’s not a big deal.”
Jean Greig notices that the girls who attend her camp really connect as band members. “They get over their fear about performing when they realize they’re all in it together – they get so pumped for their show.”
Initially nervous about performing, Cole now enjoys being in front of an audience. “Sometimes on stage things don’t go exactly as planned and we have to improvise, but it can turn out better than at rehearsal. Even though there’s a lot of pressure, I love it.”
After being at rock camp, many kids are inspired to form their own bands. Sarah and Emily started a band with their friends and recently played two songs at a street party. Cole is now in a band that practises every Friday and has regular gigs.
“At rock camp, the experience of meeting others of like mind, of jamming and performing together, really opens up the world of music for kids,” says Fleming-Read. “For many, it’s life changing.”