Through the We-R-Indie music camp, children are learning what it takes to be a rock star, but they also are gaining life skills for working together.
The weeklong camp at Philpott Lake, which will end Saturday, allows children to embrace music and nature, said Vicki Blankenship of Martinsville, president of We-R-Indie Inc.
We-R-Indie is a nonprofit organization based in Martinsville that was formed in 2010 to help musicians develop their careers and to help children see that “their talents can become a career,” Blankenship said. The youth programs began this year.
This week, 18 campers aged 6 to 16 from Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and West Virginia are participating in the camp, where they are learning about rhythm, how to harmonize and what it takes to be in a band.
The students are learning how teamwork is involved in making a song beautiful, said camp director Melanie DeMore. The campers also are learning “how you make something work” by listening and having respect for and understanding of one another, DeMore added.
Some campers already knew how to play certain instruments, but they are learning how to play new ones as well as passing along their knowledge to the other campers to help them learn, DeMore said.
By teaching one another and working together to embrace music, the campers can learn they are capable of things they did not know they could do, such as perform, DeMore added.
“It’s a cool camp” because each day, it’s all about “just jamming” and being out in nature, said camper Levi Stuart, 15.
Before the camp, Stuart knew how to play the guitar, but he did not know the names of the chords. Now he knows more about how to play and the chords he is playing, he said.
He also is learning how to play the bass guitar and the ukulele during the camp. “I love playing the ukulele ... it’s the best thing ever,” Levi said.
Throughout the week, the youth are writing their own lyrics, composing their own songs and preparing for a concert on the final day of camp. The concert will be in front of about 150 people, including camp supporters and parents, at the campsite.
In addition to their musical activities, campers also are participating in activities in nature. They have gone on nature hikes, walked along the river, gone swimming and kayaking, and toured Philpott Dam.
As far as Blankenship knows, the camp is the only one in the Southeast to combine nature and music, she said.
The camp “is really chill because you get away from society” and just focus on playing music, said camper William Seamon of Martinsville, 15.
Being in the camp made him realize how hard it can be to work together, but he sees that it helps everyone become better when “people teach me stuff and I teach other people stuff,” he said.
When Madison Cox, 6, arrived at the camp, she never had played a real guitar, only a toy one. But at the camp, she played her first note on a real guitar, which she found exciting, she said.
All of the staff members working with the campers are professional songwriters and musicians, according to Blankenship. The songwriters include Brian Jones of Nashville, Tenn.; Tisha Simeral of Nashville; DeMore of Oakland, Calif.; Sonya Heller of New York, N.Y.; Stephen Wolfe of Raleigh, N.C.; and Blankenship.
The staff members are among the more than 1,500 songwriters and musicians in the networking group of We-R-Indie Inc., Blankenship said.
Each year, We-R-Indie Inc. holds a conference in a different city where aspiring musicians can find out more about management packages, participate in writing seminars, speak with talent scouts and record label representatives, and perform on stage, Blankenship said. The next conference still is being planned.
Also in the works is the location of a centralized office for the organization in the Martinsville area. Once the location is chosen, musicians will be able to go to songwriting workshops and be featured on stage as independent artists, Blankenship said, adding that there is no timetable on when the location will be chosen.