Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Under Pressure: Campers Strive to Prepare for the Final Showcase by Jenay Ross

The first question that came to many of this year's GRAMMY® campers was "Why is camp only nine days this year?" Ever since the first year of GRAMMY Camp®, the length of Camp has fluctuated every year. It started as a nine-day Camp, was a two-week Camp last year, and now for the fifth year has reverted back to being nine days.

According to Kristen Madsen, the senior Vice President of the GRAMMY Foundation, the duration of camp was reduced with economic distress and budget concerns in mind. With today's economy, people have found it hard enough to pay for a simple gallon of gas, let alone a full-blown summer camp. With such tight budgets, for both the families of campers and the GRAMMY Foundation, the shorter camp is more wallet friendly during these hard economic times.

With less time for the kids to prepare for the final showcase this Saturday at the GRAMMY Foundation Museum, mixed feelings have consumed everyone who is working to be a part of it. Some are really feeling the pressure of having to crank out finished songs at light speed in order to be performance ready. Just recently the singer/songwriters and musical combos were informed on who would be performing and recording. Many are doing both and are collaborating on several songs. That means there are only about one and a half days for them to prepare and wrap their minds around performance mode.

Fifteen-year-old Ben LoPiccolo, who is in the Electronic Music Production track, unfortunately attends a school in Rhode Island that has cut most of their music programs. GRAMMY Camp has become the only place for him to lay out all his creativity. He has so many ideas, but so little time to get all of them recorded and produced. He stated, "There are not enough hours in a day." At the moment, LoPiccolo is working on about five or six recordings with three different groups.

For the singer/songwriters, the pressure to write songs at a rapid pace is somewhat stressful. Camper Ryan Jarvis feels like the time at Camp to get everything done is squished together and Katie Gavin sometimes feels like the lyrics might not be as genuine as they would be if they had a bit more time to think everything out. Keyboardist Grahm Bailey feels like it has also been really difficult for the instrumentalist to process everything they have learned and wishes Camp was at least a couple days longer to absorb everything.

Although the schedule for all the kids is completely filled up, many are still inspired by the environment they are in. Jillian Grutta, a second year Camper from Idaho, said, "There's so much creative flow," and sees the pressure as a "really good motivator." The music industry is all about being on time and getting things done by certain deadlines. With that in mind, Vincent Camerano understands that this year's camp forces the campers to "open their eyes to what the industry is like."

Since classes typically run from 9am to 11pm, free time in between is very limited. When there is free time, most of the kids usually continue to work on their projects. This kind of dedication shows they aren't here to waste any time sitting around. Some are so dedicated that they find themselves falling asleep while working. There have been a couple cases where people have fallen asleep while playing pianos and drum sets. Christine Jamra, a singer/songwriter, was so tired that she fell asleep in a practice room and was left in there by accident before lunch time one day. Jamra says, "I was so tired, I just curled up in one of the practice rooms and fell asleep." Even though it seems like Mr. Sandman has sprinkled his sleepy dust on everyone, things are getting done and the passion for music is still a driving force.

As each track is preparing for the final showcase, everyone believes that they are capable of putting on a good show even as the end of Camp is sneaking up. The GRAMMY Foundation and the Recording Academy have complete trust in the kids to get things done. Kristen Madsen stated, "They will get done what they came here to do."

The duration of next year's Camp will be determined based off current budgets and other pending factors. Just like previous years, a survey will be given to this year's Campers, where they will be able to give their input on what they thought about Camp. The survey will help the administration with improving GRAMMY Camp for future years and will also be a part of deciding on how long Camp will be. As someone who has experienced both the two-week camp and the nine-day camp, I think it would be nice to have a little bit more breathing room with an expansion of a couple of days for next year's Camp.