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Camp Wannarockya

At UCSC this week, Soundwall Rock Music Camp trains the shredders of tomorrow.

By Curtis Cartier

IN MY DAY, "summer camp" meant bunk beds, nature walks, BB guns and calamine lotion. Obviously I didn't grow up in Santa Cruz. Because here, besides beaches, redwood forests and more skateparks than you can shake a fractured wrist at, kids can spend their summers becoming the next Jimi Hendrix at a little thing called Soundwall Rock Music Camp

I checked out the camp, which kicked off its second session of its 16th year at UCSC this week. About 70 boys and girls, ages 12 to 17, had signed up for the camp and, on Monday, were getting their first lessons in the arts of rock stardom. Having just broken off into 16 different bands consisting of a drummer, a bassist, one or two guitarists and a singer, the kids were inside the university's state of the art Music Center jamming in various instrument-specific workshops.

"Push! I want to feel it in my hand," said vocal teacher Ann Hughes, while pressing her palm against the sternum of 15-year-old Kallie Key, who, along with seven other giggling yet focused girls, was singing AC/DC's "Highway to Hell." "You've got to learn to do this right or you're just going to tear up your throat."

The camp focuses on teaching the kids not only how to play their instruments, but more importantly, how to play with others, and what it takes to make a life in the music business. Key, who is on a full scholarship in her fourth year at Soundwall, said the experience has shaped almost every part of her musical persona and helped kick-start her band Sunrise Rehab in Lubbock, Texas.

"After the first day I ever came to Soundwall, I doubled my music knowledge just like that," she said outside of the classroom. "The teachers here really care about you."

Elsewhere in building about 14 boys were learning guitar solos and practicing a solo skill called tapping. A cacophony of muted string pluckings sounded in the room from the multitude of unplugged electric guitars, while the boys' eyes remained locked on their fretboards. In the drum room, instructor Jason Wall had just finished up with the stick swingers and compared the way he learned music with the opportunities these kids have had.

"When I grew up, you essentially had jazz and classical music camps. There was never a rock camp," he said. "If nothing else, these kids learn to work with others, which is a skill they can apply to anything they do."

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