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Summer camp amps it up

Kids and rock ‘n’ roll go together like arts and crafts, dance and drama, or summer and camp.

About 100 youngsters — from sixth-grade through 12th-grade — spent the past two weeks “slaving” over thrashing guitar solos and killer vocals. And to demonstrate how well they’ve studied, the students of “Camp Amp” — part of the Hillsboro Arts Summer — will perform Saturday at Celebrate Hillsboro on the youth music stage.

Six years ago, Recreation Program Supervisor Pam Cummings believed the 1-year-old Hillsboro Art Summer (HAS) program could be expanded, so she partnered with local band directors and Camp Amp was born. Originally called “School of Rock,” Camp Amp changed its name this year to avoid confusion with Portland programs.

Earlier this summer, aspiring rock stars of all skill levels arrived at Century High School each afternoon to practice guitar, drums, bass, vocals or concert production. Campers also chose from a list of 13 electives that included color guard, jazz improvisation, film/TV production and a clay sculpting class.

Visual arts are a new addition to the program, Cummings said. Ben Hill, an art teacher at Century High, led ceramics and pottery classes for students in the morning HAS program and in the afternoon with Camp Amp kids.

The concurrent camps attracted almost 150 students, 60 of which were enrolled in both programs. Cummings said campers represented six high schools, seven middle schools and a number of elementary schools.

HAS students choose to major in dance, drama, ceramics, or one of four other options, and study two electives that can include African drumming, keyboarding and the art of mime.

“They get a lot of choices,” Cummings said. “A lot of these kids might not realize what they’re actually getting in two weeks.”

More than 20 professionals and teachers from Dance Element and area schools lead classes at the camps, often for students with very little experience.

“Some come in with very little music experience,” Cummings said. “They work really hard for two weeks to perform.”

Beyond the spotlight, Cummings said campers make memories and friends that often go beyond age or expertise. She remembers introducing a sixth-grade girl to a group of high schoolers, who made her feel welcome at arts camp.

“I see them sitting at lunch together now,” she said.

Young campers tend to return each summer until graduation, and growing enrollment reflects their commitment to HAS and Camp Amp. Cummings said she’s met every goal so far and hopes to see continued growth.

“There are children out there who would benefit from it,” Cummings said. “Where else can you get all of this in one place?”




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  • 19 Apr 2014

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