The Rock On Young Musicians Workshop has banded together for a decade. This year, the rock ‘n’ roll band camp is celebrating with new programs and the formation of “ROO!,” the new Rock On Orchestra, which will rock The Colonial Theatre with special guests on Oct. 19. Evan Yates, a 16-year-old guitarist from the town of Washington, is back at camp for a third year.
“To learn a song on your own might take you a month. This forces you to learn new songs, with new people, in a few days and then you’re performing it at the end of the week,” Yates said.
This year, Rock On offered two weeklong workshops, last week and this week, at Berkshire Community College. The sessions run Monday through Friday, from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The camp has 17 faculty members, plus teaching assistants and volunteers who help to mentor and manage an average of 65 students each session.
Instructors offer specialized lessons in guitar, bass, drums, songwriting, brass and wind instruments, vocals and keyboard. Students form bands within the workshop and rehearse at least one song, a cover or an original, to perform in a public concert at the end of the week. Students and faculty also discuss other aspects of the industry, from recording music and videos to music study options at colleges and universities.
John Kelly, Dylan Waterhouse, Brendon Vincent and Brittany Polito are all former Rock On students who now teach or assist at the camp. The program helped them take their musical abilities to the next level.
“It taught me how to build a repertoire,” said Vincent.
“You learn how to manage time here,” Polito said.
In addition to classes, daily sets are performed featuring faculty, guest performers or lecturers.
“It’s our best year yet,” said curriculum director Jeff Link.
Last week, regional violinist and fiddle player Sarah Hubbard performed for Rock On, her alma mater. Hubbard was named a Daniel Pearl Memorial Violin recipient for her success with the Mark O’Connor Summer String Camp in Boston. On Tuesday, Barry Gondreau, formerly of the band Boston, returned to the camp to perform a show with camp faculty.
On Wednesday, Pat Patt ison, a professor of lyric writing and poetry at Berklee College of Music, analyzed lyrics by Paul McCartney and John Mayer, his former student turned Grammy Award winner.
“It’s not as important to present a lot of information as it is to be inspiring to students. They want to see what you do and work how you work,” said Chris Mattoon, who co-directs the workshop with Jay Fruet.
Sam Zwirba, a 16-year-old singer/guitar player from Pittsfield, said she’s come to Rock On for the past three years to meet people from around Berkshire County.
“It allows you to experience different kinds of music and go out of your comfort zone,” said Charlie-Marie Aveyard-Russell, a 16-year-old violinist and vocalist from Lanes borough.
That’s important, said Tyler Shaw, a 14-year-old guitarist from Adams, because “musical tastes will totally decide a friendship.”