A little history behind Takoma Groove Camp...
Takoma Groove Camp was the brainchild of the original founder and director, Robert Nicholson. The camp was created in 2004 as 'Combo Camp'. Rob had worked for a couple of summers as a music instructor at what he calls "those franchise camps". He observed that even though campers were coming to play music, it was a very stale and unimaginative environment. There was too high of a camper-to-counselor ratio and they were just being taught how to replicate and play cover songs. They weren't learning how to how to write, jam, collaborate or really play their instruments and observe how their sound and musical voice fit into a band.
Rob would often relate the anecdote of how, at the time, he was reading a book on the psychology of teaching music to adolescents and young musicians. The book started off with a quote by the author that said something like this..."Even though we can never recreate the situation of true peer-to-peer musical collaboration...", well that's what Rob decided to do with Combo Camp. He created a place and and an atmosphere where the campers can come and truly have a peer-to-peer musical experience, with the tutelage and support of seasoned musicians.
Rob enlisted the help of other local Takoma Park, Silver Spring and D.C. area musicians to be instructors, and Combo Camp began, being held at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Silver Spring. Some of the camp's past instructors have included...Chris Colvin, Sarah Fridrich & Robert Lighthouse.
Brian Weber was brought on as an instructor in 2006, and has been with camp ever since, starting out as a regular counselor, then joining Rob as co-Director of camp. Brian helped usher in some great new ideas and activities into an already fantastic camp. After the 2012 sessions of camp, Rob decided to part ways with camp and move from the area to pursue career interests in the fields of psychology, musical healing and creative-empowerment counseling. At that time, Brian assumed sole Directorship of camp.
The name of camp was changed in 2009 from 'Combo Camp' to 'Takoma Groove Camp', which was seen as a better description of what the camp ultimately was all about, groove. Grooving better on your instrument, in bands, school, family and life. Grooving better as musicians, friends and people. As Stevie Wonder states, "Just because a record has a groove, don't make it in the groove."
Camp also relocated to its current location at Seeker's Church in Takoma, D.C. The church is very unassuming from the outside, as seen from across the street at the Takoma Metro Station. However, the church is a truly wonderful space to hold camp that we've been blessed with. Inside and out it is perfect for our needs to run camp. And the people who run and manage the church are wonderful and accommodating folks.
Different instructors have been brought in, as other ones left to concentrate on other musicals interests, jobs and life. Paul Foreman and Julie Stoessel are two of our current, core instructors who really fit the bill for Groove Camp, and they have each been with the camp now for a number of years.
Takoma Groove Camp continues to grow outside of the summer sessions. There are lots of other activities and events throughout the year, that are associated with or run under the auspices of Takoma Groove Camp. Here are a few examples...
- Monthly open jam sessions are held to allow young, local musicians a place to get together and jam out in a fun, supervised environment.
- Film nights are held, much like an athletic team watching the tape of a game, where campers and instructors meet to watch and critique the video of a live performance or rehearsal, to observe what worked, what didn't work and how to fix those mistakes in the future.
- Concerts and shows are booked at venues around the area for younger, local bands who have original songs and a good product, who are trying to gig at bigger and better places. Some of the venues where these shows have been held are...930Club, The Fillmore Silver Spring, Growlers in Gaithersburg, Electric Maid, Capital City Cheesecake, JJ Muldoon's & Austin Grill.
Groove Camp Philosophy
The main focus and gist of Takoma Groove Camp is to create an environment of musicians and peers, where the camper can truly let go of any inhibitions and worries commonly associated with playing in a band, and then concentrate on learning the skills to work well with other musicians. We collaborate, write, jam, compose, improvise, brainstorm, rehearse, play a show and most of all...have lots of fun!
On the first morning of camp, after a brief musical introduction, every camper is put into a band based mostly on level of ability, but also age, instrument, musical interest and personality. Throughout the week, the band works with their instructor on a slew of important topics to learn how to play well in a band with others. Among other facets, the camper will learn to listen, have good musicianship, create original songs, improvise, recognize leadership, make decisions democratically, impart constructive criticism, write lyrics, learn their instrument and become a better musician!
We also incorporate fun, hands-on team-building exercises designed to help the campers and the bands learn how to work well each other outside of the musical situation. It is well understood by any musician who has ever played music with others, that in order for the band to truly do well and realize their potential, they must be able to put aside differences and figure out how to work together as a team to reach goals. Some of the best bands are basically a family. They know each other's personalities, likes, dislikes, what motivates them, or turns them off. Even though they may not be happy with each other all the time, they know how to work through issues and make decisions that are best for the group. There's more to being in a successful band than just playing through the chord progression of a song.
Regardless of age, the environment at camp is always a positive one. The older campers tend to take the younger ones under their wing and treat them like a peer. Just a year's difference in age or grade in school can have an affect on how young adults see and treat each other. At Groove Camp though, everyone is always made to feel a part of the group and something bigger overall. We eat lunch together and play some casual sports together as a group, to help boost confidence and comradery.
The final concert at the end of each session is a testament to the hard work, effort and learning that each camper has experienced at camp that week. A professionally mixed and engineered concert is put on and recorded to both video and audio formats. The bands don't just learn one or two cover songs and play them. They mostly write original songs (usually 3 to 4 in a week!) with maybe an occasional cover song thrown in as well, and perform them all for friends and family, and whoever happens to be there!
Everyone...parents, friends, family, instructors and even the campers themselves are astonished at the level of musicianship and caliber of music that shows during the final concert. The campers need not be too surprised though. The ability is within us all, sometimes we just need to have passionate, dedicated people and a healthy environment around us to see the potential come to life. This is what Takoma Groove Camp is all about.
Can't wait to see you there!