ADAMS, Mass. — The annual Berkshires Summer Jazz Camp plans to open this August with the inaugural semester a new music academy following in September.
Applications for the jazz camp are now being accepted and Richard Boulger, executive director and co-founder of the Berkshires Academy for Advanced Musical Studies, or BAAMS, said he and his colleagues are excited to be able to offer the free camp for the third year.
"My musical philosophy is that your musical instrument is an amplifier of what you are hearing, thinking, and feeling," Boulger said. "As one develops this approach to playing and composing music, one's own life experiences are transformed into one's musical expression and experience."
The camp runs from Aug. 17 to 21 from 1 to 5 at the academy's new home in the Olga C. Sommer Center for Music & Art. It is open to Berkshire County students ages 12 through 18.
The camp is sponsored by the Adams-Anthony Center and students will have the opportunity to work with a group of world-class jazz musicians.
"Being that we have only four full days to work with our students, and that day five is our performance, we like to focus on specific fundamentals of music that relate directly to improvising, primarily over the Blues as well as a couple of classic jazz standards," Boulger said. "We will also be collectively working with the kids on composing an original piece of their own. The format will be very similar to past camps."
In September, BAAMS plans to hold its inaugural semester.
"BAAMS is encouraging all music students and instrumentalists to apply, and not limiting that focus to just jazz," he said. "We will be developing and working with the many different principles of music designed to help students learn how to improvise and compose their own music."
In December of last year, it was announced that Boulger, in partnership with the Adams-Anthony Center and Adams business owner Donald Sommer, planned to run a music academy in the former St. Mark's Episcopal Church.
Sommer, who purchased the church, plans to renovate the space and open the Olga C. Sommer Center for Music & Art.
Boulger, a North Adams native, said he is proud to able to bring this academy to the Berkshires.
"As a North Adams native, and former member of the Drury High School band under the direction of the great Carl Jenkins, I am deeply inspired and impassioned to have the opportunity to take a lifetime of musical experience and come full circle, returning home to share with our Berkshire community," he said. "I am very grateful to the many who have worked and continue to work tirelessly on behalf of BAAMS."
Boulger said there will be a jazz influence at BAAMS but it goes far deeper than that.
"What and how we teach our students will have a pronounced impact on each student's musical development and can be transferred to all other styles of music," he said. "We have a very strong and diverse faculty who have recorded and performed with such diverse music luminaries."
He said the academy's faculty has recorded with Quincy Jones, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Allman Brothers Band, Saturday Night Live's House Band, Paul McCartney, Chaka Khan, Miles Davis, Paul Simon, Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Aerosmith, among others.
Fifty students will be accepted this semester and those who want to audition can find more information here.
Boulger acknowledged that COVID-19 has created challenges for both the summer camp and the academy and that they are monitoring reports daily and are hoping for the best.
"We are committed to ensuring the health and safety of all our students and community and will be following the guidelines set forth by the CDC and local and state officials," he said. "Yes, it'd be nearly impossible to play a saxophone with a mask on, but we're very hopeful for a successful reopening of the state."
He said extra precautions will be taken: Facilities will be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, and considerations are being made such as not serving food during sessions and keeping groups small.
A virtual jazz camp and academy could be done. If required, students will be able to study music lessons and submit questions, as well as audio and video of themselves playing their musical instrument via the BAAMS website.
Boulger noted the academy is still in its infancy and support is important -- especially during and after the pandemic.
"We are just beginning a new venture any community support is completely necessary and greatly appreciated," he said. "We are asking all who would see value in our mission to please join us and support and become a member of the BAAMS circle."
Beyond that, Boulger said he hopes that the camp and academy can serve as a positive focal point during and after the pandemic.
"We will be working closely with Berkshire area schools and communities to help ensure music students can grow and be inspired," he said. "We hope that something as positive and inspirational as BAAMS will help students and their families during these challenging times."
Editor's note: the wrong location for the camp had been initially published. This error has been fixed.
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