Bassist Alex Blake, who started his career with Sun Ra; drummer Victor Jones, who has played with Chaka Khan; and pianist Charles Blenzig, who has played with Marcus Miller and Michael Brecker, will be on the camp faculty.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — Hoosac Valley and the Adams Anthony Center are hosting a free Berkshire Jazz Day Camp this week.
Berkshire County music students will get a week of face time with five professional New York City musicians that will culminate in a live performance at the Bounti-Fare.
"I have always wanted to bring as much music and my experience as an artist back to the area," North Adams native and jazz trumpeter Richard Boulger said. "I always wanted to do that for years and years … and I always thought an opportunity like this would be great for the kids."
Boulger will bring with him a team of professional New York City musicians with varied styles and backgrounds who include pianist Charles Blenzig, drummer Victor Jones, bassist Alex Blake, and saxophonist Alex Foster.
"They are all teachers. They are not only great musicians, but they have the ability to teach," President of the Adams-Anthony Center William Kolis said. "You can have someone who is fantastic but cannot relate … they all are excellent teachers and have phenomenal backgrounds."
Kolis said for some time now the Adams Anthony Center wanted to host an event that would connect Berkshire County students to the arts. He said they began organizing the camp just over a year ago when he met Boulger on a train heading to Pittsfield.
"It was kind of serendipitous I was on the train in the Albany train station and Richard got on because he was coming up from Brooklyn," Kolis said. "I heard him say he was from North Adams … his father was my history teacher at Hoosac Valley."
From there the Adams Anthony Center started the fundraising process and contacted Hoosac Valley band director Jacob Keplinger who was happy to host the camp at the high school.
"We have a great facility for this type of workshop with two large rehearsal spaces and the auditorium very close to each other," Keplinger said. "Additionally, there are a number of classrooms that can be utilized to split the students up into smaller groups nearby."
Kolis said each high school was sent an invitation and were able to choose five students to attend the camp. Currently, there are just over 30 students signed up and students may still be able to apply. The camp was in need of bass players, piano players, and drummers as of last week.
The camp organizers can be reached through their Facebook page.
The camp starts Monday runs daily from 4 to 8. During the first two days of the camp, Boulger said the kids will be sorted into ensembles. He added that they will also go over some warmups, how to practice properly, and technique.
"We are basically going to kind of evaluate their playing levels and…see who is going to gel where and kind of figure out what kids will work better with other kids," he said.
On Wednesday, the four New York City musicians will arrive and spend the first hour of the camp interacting with the students and fielding questions. Each faculty member will present before breaking off into instrument specific sections and then ensembles.
Boulger said interspersed between the playing their will improvisational lessons, jazz history, transcribing lessons, and even listening sessions.
"We want kids to understand the importance of listening and turn them on to some of the maters of jazz and music as a whole to help them find their own voice," Boulger said. "The instrument is an amplifier for what you are hearing, thinking, and ultimately feeling."
Keplinger said students will be able to learn some specific jazz styles and techniques that there is often no time to teach in the classroom.
"This kind of specialized program will provide students with a unique experience of playing jazz, improvising, playing specific jazz warmups that most programs at high schools in Berkshire County do not address due, at least in my case, but I’m sure I’m not alone, to time constraints," Keplinger said. "Having four hours to work on these techniques and skills will be a very special opportunity for these students."
The camp ends Friday at the Bounti-Fare were students will not only perform but set up and do a sound check to get the full gigging experience.
"We are going to do a sound check and teach the kids about what it is like to do a real gig," Boulger said. "Sometimes you catch kids playing and they are on a microphone and don’t know how to play or work it. Stage presence and just the little things you can’t pick up reading in a book."
Kolis said both the student ensembles and professionals will play sets and residents can attend the event. This starts at 6; tickets are $25.
Kolis said he hopes such a high-quality program could put Adams on the map and he hopes jazz students from throughout the county network and build friendships during the camp.
Boulger agreed and said networking is a huge part of the music industry.
"Our hope is that the kids begin to build relationships with the staff and…build a bridge of sorts to New York," he said. "In this crazy music industry, you have to be able to network…you need a community and we ultimately want to build a bridge through Berkshire County, so students feel connected and can jam together."
Both Kolis and Boulger hope the camp can be an annual event.
"Everyone on this faculty is very committed to music and we hope this is something we can build upon in the future," Boulger said.
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