Right from the very start I have been calling this year’s Rock Camp a big experiment because, as far as I know, nobody has ever tried anything like it in our local community. Sure, we are calling it a “2nd annual” event, but in reality, there is very little in common between the 2009 and 2010 camps.
The focus of the 2009 program was to bring talented young musicians together to form a backup band for PJ Olsson’s performance at the annual Houghton Spring Art and Music Festival. The kids were organized into a single huge band that learned and rehearsed every song together as a group. We had something like 12 guitarist in that single band, we called it our “guitar storm.” Hop back to 2009.pjsrockcamp.com to see what I’m talking about.
Although this was a very cool experience for the kids and a ton of fun, it had the distinct disadvantage of lumping all kids together into one large mass regardless of their age, skill level, musical interests, etc. In other words, kids didn’t haven an opportunity to shine as individuals, not like you can in a 4 piece band.
Another important distinction is that last years camp was completely free to the kids. Good Times Music, having a solid base of talented young musicians who receive lessons on a periodic basis, was able to provide PJ with many great kids that were perfect for the job.
What budget we did have for covering costs like T-Shirts for the kids and advertising came from generous donations of many sponsors who believed in what we were doing with the kids.
I use the term “we” loosely here because I was more volunteering to run the sound and stage for the Copper Country Community Art Center’s festival more than working with PJ on a “Rock Camp”.
As the stage manager for the Festival, I quickly realized what a challenge it was going to be to put 18 kids on a stage, so I started working logistics and technical issues with PJ. Over the weeks of the camp, working side by side, PJ and I worked well together and became great friends, which is how I came to fall in love with Rock Camp.
Quickly realizing the potential of a Rock Camp, Jessie (my wife) and I threw the modest resources of Brassard Media into marketing the “Rock Camp” creating a logo, posters, a Facebook page, press releases, working with the CCCAC and the Downtown Houghton businesses to pull a large audience to cheer the kids on at the festival. Most importantly we created a Rock Camp BLOG and posted videos daily showing the kids progress (big thanks to King and Jake for shooting much of the video and Ray Bosley for taking a ton of photos for the blog).
The community outpouring to support the kids in the 2009 show was simply incredible. The 2009 Festival was a huge success with the PJ Olsson and the Rock Camp headlining and filling the streets of Downtown Houghton with fans.
Watching PJ work with the kids was a wonderful experience. He poured so much of his love of children and music into the campers. He was a teacher, a parent, and a friend to each of them. He took so much pride in their growth and accomplishments. I learned a lot from PJ last year and continue learning from him this year – especially in how to confront kids when necessary.
When we finally came around to talking about the 2010 Rock Camp. We decided to break the kids up in to separate smaller bands group together by musical interest. We also had a secret weapon, Kenny Stahl. Kenny was not only a very talented singer/songwriter/engineering, he was a great planner, organizer, and manager of anything you put in front of him.
We faced many unknowns with the 2010 Rock Camp. We didn’t know if parents would pay a registration fee, or where 7 drums sets would come from, or how we would feed 35 kids, or how much talent the kids would bring to the camp, or if anyone would even come to the final show. Despite the unknowns we decided to go for it and run the big experiment, could a rock camp be successful in our community.
If you’ve been following the rock camp over the past few weeks, I’m pretty sure you know by now that everyone came through for the kids and our community. The Rock Camp was hair raising and challenging at times, but the sponsors, parents, supporters, and kids were all perfect, especially the Rozsa Center opening its many, many doors to the program.
We have learned tons this year and we’re getting together tonight about what worked, what didn’t work, and where to take this program. Its was an experiment that was successful. The next question is “Where do we go from here?”
Here are a few quotes:
“I am so proud of what Rock Camp has become this year. I feel so blessed to have been a part of it. The Copper Country is a richer place because of this. These kids were given opportunities they NEVER would have had, were it not for PJ. Rock Camp has my heart and soul behind it forever and always. Let’s keep this up!!” – Hannah Bethel
“Undoubtedly a great event. At times it was difficult to tell who was happier to be there…the kids or the audience. PJ and his crew have truly started something that should last for years to come.” – Dirk Hembroff
“We were thrilled by the community support! We sent out customer satisfaction surveys today and the results started to come back in a matter of minutes. The message we are getting is loud and clear, everyone wants to rock the Rozsa again next year!” – Susanna Brent, Director of Rozsa Center
“Pj’s Rock Camp is a terrific opportunity for our kids to come together and make their music in a professional yet comfortable environment. It’s not school, it’s work. But one of the most important lessons these kids learn is that good things are worth working for. Can’t say enough about the great work and dedication provided by Todd, Kenny, Hannah, Mark, and PJ. What a strong foundation upon which to build future Rock Camps!” – Milt Olsson
“Powerful, powerful! What a gift you have given to the community PJ!!!!! Thank you, thank you. I was blown away last night by what you all accomplished. I wasn’t expecting to feel it like that—– that music-induced condition that you feel when you hear something that really connects with your brain-where the music just takes you over-no escape, pure pleasure. That happened. What a load of talent!!! Sal got so much out of the camp—FUN, self- confidence, new friends, knowledge, and desire to keep going, do more, sing it, play it. Please pass this on to Todd and Kenny and thank you again for all of your efforts-you guys are the best! Also thanks to Tam because I know it takes a support staff at home. Thanks Tam!” – Wendy
“Magic was in the air, and in all the kids’ performances! I broke into tears six times during the night, witnessing such a great display of talent! Let’s continue to support these kids by embracing their musical future!” – Peej
“Now THAT was a ROCK CONCERT!” – Todd