Jamaica Music Camp awards scholarships
Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
WESTERN BUREAU:Four full scholarships for disadvantaged children are being awarded by the Jamaica Music Camp (JMC) in what has been touted as the first sleep-away music camp on the island.
The four, who would otherwise not have had access to this type of summer camp, have been sponsored by Ron McKay of ADS Global, Teresa Tritch of New York and Jamaica Tours Ltd.
Leora O'Carroll, the woman behind the sleep away, says she has been working with both Musicians Without Borders and the National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica to help identify scholarship candidates.
"The calibre of the candidates has been so impressive - extremely dedicated, hard-working, young musicians eager to learn as much as possible about music," she told The Sunday Gleaner.
Sleep-away camps are immensely popular in the United States. It is a camp where the kids sleep over at a camp location for various lengths of time - one week to three weeks. In the case of the Jamaica Music Camp, the children will be staying at the Treehouse Villa, Good Hope, Trelawny, from June 29 to July 5.
According to O'Carroll, the camp can only accommodate 15 kids, with four already sponsored, the others who will have to pay will be accepted on a first come, first served basis.
"The camp is for kids who don't have to be serious musicians, but just want to experience the joy of music and build their musical knowledge. It will offer vocal and singing groups, music appreciation, ear training and musicianship, drumming and performance master classes," she said.
A classically trained musician, O'Carroll, is a firm believer that children should be exposed to all kinds of music.
"That's the only way kids will discover what kind of music they really love and are influenced and inspired by."
At JMC, she said, children will be doing African drumming with Jamaican teacher Calbert Brooks, singing all kinds of songs, including a pop song mash-up which they will be performing for their parents when they pick them up at the end of the week. The children will also be learning about great pieces of classical music in music appreciation classes.
One other teacher recruited to host the classes is Katherine Williamson, a music educator and voice teacher based in Los Angeles, California.
"Beyond the intrinsic value and joy of music, it is a uniquely powerful force that helps kids in so many ways, including boosting brain power, improving academic performance, building confidence, improving memory and fostering creativity," O'Carroll said.
In addition, it teaches discipline and provides a positive form of expression.
For O'Carroll, this sleep-away music camp should nurture a lifelong love of music in a child and enrich that child's life in a powerful, positive way.
Although music will be the focus, O'Carroll says this art will be balanced with fun and play.
"There will be two full-time camp counselors to supervise recreational activities. The kids will also be doing arts and crafts, such as making their own piñatas, and rhythm eggs (a kind of instrument), and movie nights with music-themed movies and musicals."
More importantly, O'Carroll, who lives between Jamaica and Los Angeles, says the sleep away allows for a strong camp spirit, development of independent skills, and in the case of music camp, the opportunity to make a lot of music, fun and new friends.
"When you are learning piano or another instrument at home, it can be somewhat lonely, but at a sleep-away camp, there is the chance for lots of ensemble music making, and suddenly, all that hard work and practice the child did at home makes sense as they can share in the fun of playing music together."
So what's the take-away?
O'Carroll says music has the power to change people's lives. "The benefits of music are many: It's been well researched and established that music nourishes the soul and is a positive way for children to express themselves. When kids have music in their lives, they are less likely to be distracted by negative elements growing up."
How does one sponsor?
People can donate to the scholarship fund by visiting http://jamaicamusiccamp.com/scholarship-fund/.
O'Carroll has very close ties to Jamaica; she is married to Montego Bay businessman, Richard Downer.