What to Expect at Jazz Camp
Arrive late afternoon, get a name tag and a room and mingle with the other campers and faculty. Take a stroll around, checking out beautiful Lac MacDonald and the CAMMAC facilities spread out into the woods. Grab a meal in the cafeteria and attend a meeting where the schedule and other details are laid out. Then head out to your first rehearsal in one of the cabins, where you meet your fellow combo members and faculty leader. Play some tunes, to get acquainted musically. Afterwards, wander off to one of the jam sessions and hear some campers play, some quite advanced, others not so much. Maybe get up and play yourself.
Wake up too early after a late night at the jam session. Eat some breakfast with other tired campers, then find your master class, which might be outdoors if weather permits. One or more faculty members will be telling you things you didn’t know about how to practice your instrument and play jazz on it. . . . Around 11, take a break, grab a coffee and head off for an improvisation workshop: basic, intermediate or advanced. Thought you couldn’t improvise? Well, maybe you can.
Then lunch, followed by your second combo rehearsal. The concert is two days away and you’re deciding what you will play in it and beginning to get the bugs out of it. Mid-afternoon it’s off to another workshop, perhaps on scat singing, or composition or building repertoire for that group you’ve decided to form after camp.
Dinner might be preceded by a swim or a nap, depending on how tired you are. The buzz at dinner is about tonight’s faculty concert, the first of two. Veteran campers talk about the highlights of previous concerts — great performances by faculty members seemingly pulled out of the air after the most minimal of rehearsals.And then it’s back to the cabin for another combo rehearsal. By now those tunes you are playing at the concert are beginning to take shape. You’ve had a chance to try a solo on one of them and you realize what a challenge that’s going to be.
Around 9 p.m. the entire camp gathers in Lucy Hall where there is a grand piano and fine acoustics. The faculty members, a dozen or so of them, play in various combinations, covering all facets of jazz. It’s inspiring — a stunning example of what the music can be when it’s done with intensity and expertise.
Then it’s back to the jam sessions. You find some musical friends and get up there. You struggle — it’s hard playing with new people on tunes you haven’t practiced — but at the end people applaud.
Even more tired, you drag yourself from breakfast to your second master class. The amount of playing you’ve been doing, you have a new appreciation of the need for building strength and endurance on your instrument. Then it’s off to another workshop, learning about arranging or how to use new technology. After lunch it’s back to the cabin for a more polished rehearsal of your combo. That solo you’re working on is starting to sound better. The afternoon’s workshop might be on free playing, or chord progressions, or it could be a rehearsal for the Big Jazz Choir that will be performing tonight before the faculty concert.
But first there is the final rehearsal of your combo. Tomorrow afternoon you’ll be on stage for 15 or 20 minutes playing those tunes you’ve been working on so hard.
You race from your combo cabin to Lucy Hall for the second faculty concert. The audience of campers is wildly appreciative. Some of them are inspired to rush off to a jam session and play; others are so impressed by what they have heard that they just want to think about it quietly. Still, they celebrate with marshmallows at a big bonfire.
The big day. Those who can still get to breakfast huddle with their combo mates discussing today’s concert and last night’s. The faculty has raised the bar. After breakfast, campers begin packing up, while volunteers set up Lucy Hall for the concert.
The concert begins right after lunch. Friends and relatives arrive to hear it and the combos nervously await their turn while listening to the efforts of their friends in other groups. Those efforts get wild applause: people who wondered, three days ago, if they could play this stuff now find out they can. Then it’s your turn and, supported by the enthusiasm of the audience, you play your tunes the best you’ve ever done. The applause is warm and so are the hugs from your band members afterwards. Then it’s a fast round of goodbyes and a pleasant musical glow all the way home. Can’t wait for the next JazzWorks jam session in Ottawa in three weeks.
Jazz Camp Quick Links
"JazzWorks is one of my few opportunities to play with people, and I had lots of opportunities to play... solo, for which I am thankful... Thank-you for a great JazzWorks weekend."
"At this camp the faculty creates a space for us, shows us some love, opens us up, and then invites us to fill the space with whatever we express."