Breaking Down Band Camps: Reviews of Various Music Camps

by Lydia Felty ’17

As a trombone player who went to not one, but two summer music camps during my high school years, I consider myself an expert on the subject. Sure, one of them was the week-long camp my marching band mandated, and yeah, maybe it was only a few hours a day because we didn’t have a football team, so we only marched in parades. But it was music camp nonetheless.

Likewise, I have another area of expertise as a self-proclaimed connoisseur of free Bandcamp albums. Today, I’ve decided to bring my two areas of expertise together and present you with reviews of summer band camps I have never been to.

French Woods Performing Arts Summer Camp

Location: Hancock, New York
Ages: 7–17

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Yes, the graphics on this page are awful, as are the special effects in the promo video, but you can tell those kids are having fun, and their programs sound amazing. Campers have the option to focus on one interest or design a program that encompasses a myriad of areas. From music to theater to rock and roll to circus, this place has it all. One camper said, “They really just make me want to do my best.” That speaks to me personally, as my parents always just wanted me to do my best, but I didn’t always care enough at, say, my marching band camp to do my best. Here, however, I believe I would have thrived due to the programs and culture, as well as in knowing that Zooey Deschanel and Adam Levine had gone to the very same camp.

Older than 17? Want to be a counselor? Check it out here.

GRAMMY Camp

Location: Nashville, Los Angeles, New York
Ages: Grades 9–12

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According to the GRAMMY Camp website, it is “the best summer music industry program ever.” Ever. That’s a bold claim, but they seem to have the evidence to back it up. Campers write and record music, take trips to various professional music sites, and meet guest artists. Campers spend more than a week “living, breathing, eating, drinking music” before their final concert in a professional venue. With tracks in everything from performance to audio engineering to music journalism, and the freedom to experience programs in other tracks, the possibilities are broad and honestly kind of incredible.

Between 21 and 25 years old? Maybe you should apply to be a counselor.

School of Rock

Location: A lot of different places!
Ages: 8–18 years

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Anyone who’s anyone has seen School of Rock, and anyone who wants to be anyone (sort of) should check out School of Rock camp. The camp was designed for musicians who play typical rock band instruments (guitar, bass, drums, keyboard) or sing at any skill level. Programming includes rehearsals, theory and songwriting courses, time with music professionals, and a live performance, and campers can go for either one or two weeks. According to Adam, 18, of Sor Rochester, “School of Rock has taught me to work hard for things that I want to get (like being an AllStar), and it’s taught me to work really well with others, and has improved my communication skills.” And honestly, who doesn’t want to be an all star?

No camp counselors, so far as I can tell, but apply to be a student intern! 

Stagedoor Manor

Location: Loch Sheldrake, New York
Ages: 10–18 years

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Stagedoor has classes from basic to advanced levels, allowing campers to learn with others at their skill level and even design their own program. Classes are taught by Broadway, TV, and film performers, as well as agents, casting directors, and managers. Everyone is cast in shows, meaning that everyone gets to be part of the same experience as Stagedoor’s great alumni, including Natalie Portman, Robert Downey Jr., Mandy Moore, Ansel Elgort, and Zach Braff. How’s that for an alumni network?

Over 21? Apply! Maybe you could meet Zach Braff!

Upper Darby Summer Stage

Location: Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania
Ages: 11–28 years

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Ever wondered where Tina Fey spent summers? It was near Philadelphia at Upper Darby, which has full productions each summer featuring over 700 campers. Programs range from the 11- and 12-year-old apprentices who stay for three weeks to over-18 mainstage performers, and campers participate in everything from “Summer Stage Storytellers” (local library performances) to mainstage productions of Broadway musicals. There are additional programs in dance, cabaret, directing, and technical theater. Whether you’re into working backstage or singing in a full production, Upper Darby seems to be a cool place to go.

How to become a counselor is unclear, but contact them about joining here.