On Sunday evening, the instrumental combos collaborated with the Singer/Songwriters to perform a short setlist for the annual mini concert. The groups performed covers of five songs by popular artists, from the recent country-pop song “You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift, to rock classic “Under the Bridge” from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, back to the jazzy tune “How High the Moon” by the great Ella Fitzgerald. Each performance was entertaining, captivating, and very impressive for a group of high school students who had such a short time to learn a new song with musicians they’d never played with. I caught up with several of the musicians from the mini concert to see how they felt it went over.
For the returning Campers, the concert was a welcomed return. Guitarist Gunnar Rolfs and drummer Will Pinson both felt the performance went over with ease.
“Last year I was way nervous, so I wasn’t very comfortable performing," Rolfs said. "This year I knew what to expect, and this year I only had one song to learn, last year I think I had to play three. This year I was more laid back and confident." “I think we improved on some of the things that didn’t go as well last year," added Pinson. "The song choices were a lot better, and I think that I performed with musicians with better abilities than last year.”
As for the brand new GRAMMY Campers, they seemed a bit anxious at first, but they quickly discovered the joys of jamming with new instrumentalists. Guitarist Cody Tripp and bassist John Bassel both started having once they got to know their fellow musicians and the songs they were covering.
“It was a blast playing because I love learning new material. I’m usually not nervous, but I’d never really done a really legit jazz tune before. I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty nervous," Tripp said. "But it was fun, I love playing with new people. Everybody’s so fun to play with here, so it’s been a blast playing with new people."
“It was fun performing with new people! I mean, we’ve been having a lot of cool jam sessions, and maybe we’ll be able to turn those ideas into songs," Bassel added. "My main issue with our song was that I’d never really played jazz like that before. In my jazz band the teacher usually played the song and I’d get the bassline by ear. But this time they just handed us a chart and a CD with the music on it. I couldn’t really hear the bass very well on the CD, because it was a lot lower down in the mix.”
The musicians are as excited to perform as in previous years, if not more thrilled than before to be working with other talented instrumentalists. Their work will culminate in the final showcase on Sunday night, when they will present the original pieces of music they’ve been working on and refining all week.
"I’m really excited for the showcase," Rolfs said. "I’m also excited to start learning the singer-songwriters’ material, their original stuff should be cool."