For one group of boys and girls at Fine Arts Connection, summer started off as anything but ordinary and boring.
The 10 young people ranging in age from 6 to 15 strapped on guitars, picked up the drum sticks and made that cowbell ring. They just became a rock ‘n’ roll band.
The opportunity to come together with other musicians was part of FAC’s ninth annual Rock Camp. For five days, five hours a day, these talented musicians get to leave behind their normal routines to make friends with other like-minded musicians, play songs of their choosing and then perform for a crowd at the end of the week. They also have recorded a CD of the experience.
Diane Manzoni is owner of FAC and has been operating the music school for 30 years. She has instructors who teach piano, voice, guitar, bass, drums, violin, viola, ukulele and mandolin. During Rock Camp, children who play the violin get a chance on the guitar. Students who are proficient on bass try their hands on the keyboard. It’s all about making a connection, Manzoni said.
“Playing in a band is very different from being a solo performer and doing a recital,” she said. “You have to listen to other musicians and not just yourself. These kids are having a blast.”
Mary Gamboa is one of the Rock Camp instructors. She teaches voice, bass, guitar and drums at FAC. In addition to getting to tear loose on some cool rock tunes, these students are also taught music history and theory. They also learn how to take care of their instruments and practice vocal warm-ups.
“Some of them have come in playing their main instrument and I made them play keyboard this morning,” Gamboa said. “I have made them do vocal warm-ups. When you are in a band versus being solo, there are different things you must know. When you are a solo artist, you can play as slow or fast as you want. In a band, you have to listen to what is happening all around you.”
The history of rock
Gamboa and the students listened to rock music from the 1950s up to the present. She let them help choose what songs they would learn, perform and record. One of them is “I’m Still Standing,” by Elton John. “Johnny Be Good” by Chuck Barry and “R.O.C.K in the U.S.A” by John Mellencamp are also selections they chose.
For 13-year-old Marc Pettit, Rock Camp has been fresh and new every year. This is his fifth time participating. He plays drums but said Rock Camp has encouraged him to also try out the piano, bass and guitar. “I’ve tried them all,” he said.
Those who come to the Friday Night Jam Sessions each month at FAC get the opportunity to see Pettit in action, along with other FAC students.
Manzoni said this summer has been an exciting one already with the Rock Camp and other programs. In July, FAC will offer a Worship Camp for those young people interested in Christian rock and praise and worship music. Gamboa will also be an instructor for this one. She and her husband Paul are worship leaders at their church.
The Rock Camp finished out Friday with a performance by the students. Shiyu Mori, 11, is a pianist and he also plays the viola. While much of his training has been classical music, he said Rock Camp was a super fun experience to learn something new. He now has an interest in playing the guitar.
Elijah Gamboa, Mary’s son, is 10 and has already been immersed in a number of instruments and music styles. He can play drums, guitar and percussion.This was his first Rock Camp.
“It was a lot more than I imagined it would be,” he said. And while he did appreciate all of the history and theory knowledge shared, getting down to the business of playing was his favorite part.
There were five girls who were part of Rock Camp 2017. One of them was Jasmine King, 12, a student at Alcoa Middle School. She plays guitar and sings.
King was totally hyped about this opportunity and the fellow musicians she met. She got introduced to the bass, an instrument she has fallen in love with. There is always something to learn, she said. This Rock Camp experience is one she won’t soon forget.
Some of these rock ‘n’ rollers might become professional musicians some day. Some will not, but they will keep music in their lives. Manzoni said she wanted to provide a fun way to learn new things. No one can know where it might lead.