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Academy of Music and Performance continues to build

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Founded in 2012

By Marc Bruell

Special to The Sopris Sun

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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

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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.

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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

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.

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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

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.

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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

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.

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

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.

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For more information on the Academy of
Music and Performance visit