After having to miss a day, it was sure great to get back to the P.J. Olsson Rock Camp. Every day starts out with a short group meeting, at which P.J. let’s the campers know what the day’s expectations are. Following the meeting the vocalists met with P.J. for vocal warm-ups, while the drummers met with Danny Thompson for a series of stretching techniques to get their muscles ready for a day of hitting the skins. Danny and I talked about how people tend to forget that being a musician is also an athletic activity. Our other instrumentalist went to their rehearsal rooms and worked on their parts for the songs their bands are playing. Lots of discipline, these campers take their art seriously.
The main focus of the day was having all four bands up on the big stage to play through a few of their songs. At this time the sound crew were able to adjust both house levels (what the audience hears) and monitor levels (how the musicians hear each other on stage). I think we have all been at live performances where the sound quality wasn’t that great – even when I saw U2 for the first time, the opening acts were very muddy sounding. That’s another of the reasons that the Big Show – August 10 – Rosza Center – is such a great experience is the professional level of the sound mix.
While each band is on-stage, our teaching staff offers critique, and pointers in how to better augment the performance, such as where to add backing vocals, stage presence and how to connect with the audience, and how to arrange the band on stage for aesthetic value and making sure each musician is visible to the audience.
From my vantage point in the auditorium watching up front and center stage, I can say I was glad for the dark glasses I have to wear – I could have used the excuse that my eyes were recovery from the previous days surgery – in all honesty I have to say that my tears were those of joy – I know it’s only rock & roll, but I like it. Even during these past few years of helping out with Rock Camp, and seeing the progression of these young musicians, and hearing the songs many, many times…watching the Big Show is still an emotional experience for me. Like I always tell people, if you only go to one musical event this year, make it this one, you will not be disappointed.
This just in from our London office: don’t know how she found out, but Adele reports that rumor has it, a local musician and media personality will be a guest vocalist with his son’s band. If you want to know more details, you’ll just have to come to the Big Show.
And now, let’s meet a few of our campers: Today we will feature two first time campers and two “seasoned” veterans:
Madison, a student at Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw Schools
Mclain, a home schooled student from Idaho
Megan, a student at Michigan Technological University
Vanessa, a student at Hancock Public Schools
Question: What was the inspiration for choosing to pursue music?
Madison: as a child I listened to a lot of classical piano and started playing
Mclain: my older sister was big into Michael Franti, she actually wrote him, not just a fan letter, but a book. Because of that our family now has a cool relationship with him and we keep in touch.
Megan: I was forced into piano lessons, but I thought that guitar was cooler, so soon I was learning both and listening to a broad range of music.
Vanessa: My mom was in a band, Sibling Rivalry, with many members of the family. I have always had music around me.
Question: Is there a particular artist or genre that inspires the direction your music is taking?
Madison: RexOrangeCountry – they have quite a different approach to music
Mclain: psychedelic rock and reggae, also Tash Sultana
Megan: blues rock
Vanessa: Tame Impala, I like that they are all organic sounds
Question: What instruments do you play?
Madison: keyboards, bass, clarinet, oboe, and ukulele (but doesn’t everybody play uke?)
Mclain: keyboards, guitar, violin, percussion, digereedo. He also does DJ mixing and rapping.
Megan: bass, guitar, keyboards, drums, and vocals
Vanessa: guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion, oboe, trumpet, and vocals
Question: Why should people come to see the Big Show?
Madison: It left me feeling inspired and I wanted to be part of it. I was so shocked by the transformations that took place just over a two week period.
Mclain: There are so many kids that have musical talents to share. People should come out and support them, since in most areas they do not have this opportunity.
Vanessa: Since we live in such a small area, things like this don’t happen often. This is a professional show put on by kids.
Megan has been with us for several years and chose to share about her Rock Camp experience. During her first year she had some social anxiety issues. At Rock Camp she made many friends, finding other kids with similar interests. When she left for home after that first year, she felt more confident about herself. From my own perspective, watching Megan growth over the years blessing to me, and reminds me that P.J. Olsson’s Rock Camp isn’t just about the music – there is much more going on.
Megan has released a CD of her original songs which can be purchased at the Big Show, online through CD Baby, Amazon, as well as her own site, meganhoppelmisc.
Written by Anthony Daniel