My Jazz Camp story began over a beer with my trumpet playing friend, Janelle, (see Janelle’s story) following one of our Friday night Community Band concerts. We were commiserating over the lack of opportunities for playing in jazz/ big bands in our area. At the next week’s concert, she told me about this Jazz Camp for adults that she found online, and that it still had openings for a trumpet and trombone player. However, it was only a month away and was a pretty big chunk of money to come up with on fairly short notice. We said to each other “maybe next year”. A few days later, we were talking about it with Janelle’s mother (over a beer, of course) and giving her all of our excuses why we couldn’t do it that year. She countered every one of our excuses, and by the end of our visit we were both going home to discuss it with our families. I am forever grateful to Carmen (RIP) for convincing us to do it, and to do it that year.
It was the most amazing experience I have had in my adult musical life! I was nervous about whether I would be good enough. And I am also a little introverted, so I worried about making friends and fitting in. Both of those worries were erased by the end of the first evening. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming at the opening reception, that I immediately felt at home. And at each meal or evening event, I met more wonderful people. My band leader (Charlie) was also very welcoming and made it clear from the beginning that we were there to learn and have fun, not be judged. After reading through the first piece, I knew that I could do this and that I belonged there. I can read music well, but I have limited improvisation experience so I have always requested to be in a big band. The opportunity for improv is there, but there is no pressure. In 2014, some friends somehow got me on the stage for one of the late night jam sessions. I had no idea what I was doing, and I know that I was not good, but the support and encouragement that I got from my fellow participants and the instructors was overwhelming. Attending Jazz Camp was definitely outside of my “comfort zone”, but I am so glad that I pushed myself to try it. I have grown so much, musically and personally, in the 3 years that I have been attending.
It is a surreal experience to be able to get away from the daily grind of regular life for a whole week, and to be surrounded by fellow musicians, both professional and amateurs like myself. Even though I play in several different groups (mostly classical) throughout the year, this is my only opportunity to play in a jazz group. And jazz musicians are much more fun than classical! The whole week is like being with one, big, happy family, and I look forward to reconnecting with my old friends and making new ones every year. I can’t imagine a summer without Jazz Camp!