Twelve-year-old Nemi Martinez had just started taking drum lessons when he signed up three years ago for Moab Youth Rock Camp, where he helped form a band, wrote songs and performed publicly – all within a week’s time.
“Nemi is getting skills there that he’s not getting in home lessons,” his mother Sarah Barstow said. “It’s wild; it’s fantastic. It’s been amazing.”
Former Moab resident Amy Stocks modeled the Moab Youth Rock Camp after a Girls Rock Camp in Boston she attended a few years ago with Josie Kovash. The Moab program is for boys and girls, ages 8 to 17.
“Numerous people lent musical instruments for the event,” Stocks said. “Kids wrote their own songs. When you give them basic tools – a few chords, drum beats – they’re quick.”
Moab’s next Youth Rock Camp will run from Tuesday, April 11, through Friday, April 14. A final showcase performance takes place on April 14 at 7 p.m. at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center stage room, 111 E. 100 North.
Last year, the rock camp became a program of KZMU Community Radio. A large group of dedicated volunteers – many of them local musicians – act as band managers and give lessons on the instruments during the spring break week. Local restaurants donate food for lunches and snacks for the kids.
Kovash is current director of the Moab Youth Rock Camp, which will be held this year at Moab Middle School.
“We get most of our instruments donated (for the week) by the pawn shop Yama and Sons,” Kovash said. “They also lend us amplifiers.”
Kids choose the instrument they want to learn – guitar, bass, drums or keyboards – and form bands generally comprised of five people.
“We start out with punk rock aerobics,” Kovash said. “We play the Ramones, and get kids up and dancing, moving, shouting.”
Fifteen kids signed up the first year. Participation doubled the following year. One or two instructors typically teach small groups of four or five students.
“You get to know your instrument,” said Kovash, a musician herself, who performs in two Moab bands. “There’s a wide variety of background of skill. Some have never held an instrument before. If kids are more advanced, we work on getting them to the next level … We’ve had a lot of campers come year after year. They progress through the year. I’ve known students who kept their band going throughout the year.”
Local musicians such as Gigi Love, Jon Olschewski, Jeff Gutierrez and Sand Sheff have been invited to come talk to the students about songwriting and other aspects of being a musician. Sometimes, parents approach volunteers about providing private lessons later.
“Kids really own it,” Kovash said. “As a musician, I take notes on incredible stage presence, or lyrics writing that I want to tap into, that I want to emulate myself … Kids come with this really creative, sweet spot. Their songs get stuck in my head for a long time.”
Barstow’s son Nemi will mentor other young people this year. She said she is appreciative of the generosity of talented individuals who donate their time to make the camp happen. She said her son gained confidence on the stage.
“I cried through every performance – it’s a joy, of course,” Barstow said. “They’re all dressed up. You see personalities you didn’t see before – it comes out. They’re rock gods for a day … I would love to see it as a summer program. I would do what I could to help. A two or three month-long program would be so awesome.”
KZMU sponsors music camp
“Kids come with this really creative, sweet spot. Their songs get stuck in my head for a long time.”
When: Tuesday, April 11, through Friday, April 14, from 9.a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Grand County Middle School, 439 S. 100 East; and the Moab Arts and Recreation Center, 111 E. 100 North
Cost: $100 per camper; scholarships available
Information: 435-259-8824; email@example.com
For more information, call 435-259-8824, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.