A Parent’s Summer Rock Camp Reflection

August 21, 2019
Luke Hall

My Voice Music summer camp, July 2019. Photo by Jason Quigley

Thank you My Voice Music & Summer Rock Campers

Last week I got to see My Voice Music in action when my kid attended summer rock camp. In the span of one week Bea played drums and electric guitar, collaboratively wrote 2 songs, and performed in a final concert (as a member of the short lived supernova of a band The Flying Persimmon Kittens).

Full disclosure: I am My Voice Music’s grant writer. Long before Bea was a camper, I was writing about MVM’s work. I can speak stats and impact statements about MVM all day long, but most of what I know has been from a distance—  talking to staff and reading reports and survey results. Being a part of the camp as a parent and seeing its impact on my kid gave me a whole new perspective. 

Through the week I saw my 9 year-old (who prefers they/ them pronouns) transform, taking on new habits and the confidence of the rock and roll drummer they appeared as in the final performance. 

MVM’s Summer Rock Camp helped activate Bea’s creative reflexes. Since camp, if there’s a rhythm out in the world (a song playing in a restaurant or a persistent beat in the car wash) they will tap along with invisible drum sticks. 

Camp also heightened Bea’s appreciation for wordplay. After a week of group songwriting they seem ever attuned to the possibilities of language— rhymes, mashups, puns. At dinner last night they wriggled and made silly faces that let me know they were probably done eating. When I asked “are you full?” they replied “tom-fullery”. While there’s no doubt that this heightened awareness of words will serve my kid’s mission to cheekiness at home, it will serve them out in the world in a thousand other ways. 

Over the week of Rock Camp I also saw Bea develop a deep trust in group process. When I asked what it was like to write a song with other kids Bea replied “Great, at My Voice every body’s voice matters”. For them it was a deeply held truth gleaned from experience, not a platitude. I also noticed their curiosity and appreciation of other musical collaborations emerge. They were in a band once so now they want to know about other bands and musicians. “Who are the Beatles? Did Otis Redding have a band? Did Mozart really write all those songs alone?” 

While I clocked these developments in Bea at home during camp week, I was totally unprepared for the beauty of the final concert and witnessing what the campers created together. 

As the concert unfolded song after song dwelled on impacts of climate change and catastrophic weather events. Although campers come from a range of backgrounds and varying life challenges—  their songs suggested a shared existential dread of planetary collapse and mass extinction. One song told the story of ‘life taking a new storm’ after a terrible storm. Another narrated from the planet Neptune while a tsunami ravaged earth. There were multiple references to melting ice caps and lonely polar bears. 

Even now, a week later, it is hard to know how to adequately respond to these songs — both devastating and inspiring. So, let me say thank you. Thank you My Voice Music for creating a space where young people are able to use rhythm, words, collaboration to give voice to their fears. Thank you Summer Campers: you are fierce and give me hope for the uncertain future. 

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