Sopris Sun

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Academy of Music and Performance continues to build

Founded in 2012

By Marc Bruell

Special to The Sopris Sun

As 11 teenagers took the stage at PAC3 last weekend — rocking out to “Rock and Roll” by the Velvet Underground, harmonizing on folksy ballads, singing delicate acappellas and screaming out rock/punk lyrics — you never would have guessed these same kids arrived at the PAC3 just six days earlier, shy and nervous, unsure about their upcoming week at the Academy of Music and Performance (AMP).

The students spent their week at AMP learning about all that it takes to put on a concert. They developed their vocal and instrument techniques, worked on synchronizing their individual musical roles with one another, and learned a lot about digging deep and pulling more out of themselves than they believed possible.

By the end of the week most of the students were still nervous about performing and wishing they had more time to polish their pieces. However, as they stood in front of the lights and microphones their excitement took center stage and they put on a fabulous concert performing covers of some of their favorite songs as well as their original compositions.

Unique approach

The idea of creating a comprehensive music camp in Carbondale for young adults first emerged in the spring of 2012, as Mark Taylor began having conversations with music teachers Shanti Gruber, Chris Harrison and myself about setting up a music school where students learned all about the music business. Though there were already several music camps in the valley where students could work on singing or honing their chops on instruments, this school would be unique in that it would cover multiple aspects of musical performance and production, including learning to set up sound systems, running the lights and promoting a show. Thus began the Academy of Music and Performance.

Last summer, the camp ran as the PAC3 Music Academy and held three one-week sessions from June through August. The success of those three weeks inspired the directors to start working toward expanding its offerings and sharpening its vision for the future. This year, with the help of Rainy Day Design, the group re-branded itself as AMP — the Academy of Music and Performance.

AMP strives to create a space in which young people can experiment with music in a safe and creative environment. The instructors encourage all student contributions and strive to quell the hypercritical attitude that can sometimes emerge during the teen years, so that creativity flows freely.

The instructors continuously dance that fine line between providing the students with the guidance and tools they need to express themselves through the craft of music and allowing them the freedom to make musical and lyrical choices that are meaningful to them. The experience of writing original songs presents students with the chance to open up, step out of their comfort zone, learn to trust themselves, and to collaborate with their peers to create something bigger than they could do on their own.

Several of the students’ parents have noted that their kids were much more motivated and disciplined in their practicing at home during the week they spent at AMP — even after spending 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the music camp. For many students, working collaboratively with their peers and preparing for a public performance inspired them in a way that practicing at home does not.

Saturday’s concert

AMP instructors allow students to take the lead, responding to the needs and interests of the particular students involved in each session. The list of original songs written by the students in last week’s camp provides a view into the range of possibility at AMP — from “The Awkward Song,” an indie-flavored tune about struggling to write a song with an assigned group of very quiet fellow students; to “The Angry Song,” a heavy rock/punk tune about desires for independence and autonomy; to “Carry On,” a folk ballad reflecting on the imagined experience of a teenager fed up with problems at home and daring to strike out on his own.

The Academy of Music and Performance hopes for the future include expanded offerings for both high school and middle school students: after-school programming, private and group lessons, and youth performances throughout the community. A little farther out, it’s fun to imagine taking the Academy on the road, connecting with musicians and venues in other towns, and helping to spread the love and sharing of music beyond the Roaring Fork Valley.

As Mark Taylor put it at the opening of last Saturday’s performance, “Our directors have some lofty goals.”

You can come see some of this year’s AMP students perform at the grand opening of the new Carbondale Branch Library at 2:30 p.m. on July 20, and at the Mountain Fair in the Jam Tent and on the Oasis Stage.

For more information on the Academy of Music and Performance visit