- By LESLIE COLLINS
June 26, 2013
Drums rose above the mix of sounds reverberating throughout the Mattie Rhodes Center, 148 N. Topping.
Upstairs, each room oozed creativity as campers honed their musical skills among mentors.
In one room, youth learned about the ins and outs of a tech crew, from setting up sound equipment to performing sound checks. In another room, youth loosened their lips with vocal warm-ups. There was the percussion room, the guitar room, the piano room and others.
For one week, June 10-15, 30 youth from across the urban core and from the suburbs participated in the second annual M.U.S.I.C.A. Camp hosted by Kansas City’s own Making Movies, a four-member band whose style mixes folkloric Latin rhythms with rock and roll.
“It rocks,” said Ricardo Garcia, a sophomore at East High School.
Garcia attended the music camp last year and focuses on vocal and guitar.
“The people here are cool people,” he said. “It’s cool to be in a place where you’re not the only person interested in one instrument. There’s a lot of people here to learn stuff, so you don’t feel left out.”
The campers, which ranged in ages from ten to 17, exuded positive energy as they sat or stood side by side, sharing tips or simply socializing.
Alta Vista eighth grader Rixi Cruz felt nervous and shy as she attended the camp for the first time, she said. While other people found their musical niche, she continued to search for hers until leaders in the group suggested she try singing.
“They say just breathe in and out. Don’t worry about what other people are thinking. Just show them you’re a star…” Cruz said.
As the camp progressed, her shyness subsided and she found acceptance among the group of youth and adult mentors. For Cruz, music serves as an outlet.
“Music inspires me,” Cruz said. “You can write about your feelings – your deep feelings – and it takes away stress from your body. It helps a lot.”
In the guitar room, Enrique Chi of Making Movies and Bob Walkenhorst, a long-time musician and member of the rock band The Rainmakers, offered advice and feedback to a group of guitarists and songwriters. The group sat in a circle and Walkenhorst leaned forward as he listened to one youth strum an original song.
“I’ve never heard those set of chords before,” Walkenhorst said. “You’ve got a style going there.”
When the group finished showing off their original compositions, Walkenhorst offered tips for becoming a better songwriter and squeezing in additional time to practice music. When one youth said he wrote a song the previous day but already forgot the melody, Walkenhorst suggested he use a cell phone to record new songs or use his voicemail.
“Find a place to play your songs in front of people,” Walkenhorst added. “That’s the test. You get energy back which propels you to write the next song or improve on the instrument you play.”
Members of Making Movies founded the music camp to give back to the community and provide a positive outlet for inner city youth.
“For me personally, it’s so much fun,” said Juan-Carlos Chaurand of Making Movies. “It’s definitely a passion of mine being able to work with kids and building their self-esteem and things like that through music.”
In addition to honing their musical skills, the campers learned what a musical career entails and were broken into groups to learn about the tech crew, the audio/visual crew, PR and social media, stage managing and hospitality.
“We figured this year we’d do that because being a part of the band, we’ve had to learn personally (how to do those things),” Chaurand said. “We’ve had to be our own PR, our own booking agent, we had to set up our own equipment and tear it down. When you’re starting out, unless you get very lucky, you have to learn everything about the music industry.”
“We’re giving them a real perspective of what it means to be a musician,” Chi said, “and trying to instill early on an attitude of no matter what level you get to in your art form or music journey, it’s never too early or late to use that to give back to your community.”
During the week, members of Making Movies and those tied to the music industry volunteered at the camp and the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) lent out the instruments.
Susan Tilbury, vocal and choreography instructor volunteer, said she looks forward to the camp every year. Tilbury also gives vocal lessons to Chi and is a retired opera singer with the Metropolitan Opera and the San Francisco Opera. Now, she’s studying music therapy and psychology at UMKC.
“I love seeing the kids light up when they learn new things,” Tilbury said. “I love their personalities and what each of them brings to the music and allowing that to shine through.”
To culminate the week, the campers performed a set of songs twice – once in the Mattie Rhodes parking lot and then on Saturday, June 15, to open for Making Movies at the iconic Knuckleheads venue in Kansas City.
“There’s something about performing and getting comfortable in front of people. It’s a lifelong skill,” Chi said.
“You play music to give it to people,” he continued. “If you play it by yourself in your bedroom, it loses something. It’s a way for people to participate together in something.”
It’s also a chance for the youth to shine and for their friends and family to rally around them, he said.
For the Knucklehead’s performance, Making Movies arranged for a tour bus to pick up the youth from Mattie Rhodes and drive them to the venue. Each camper received a backstage pass and hung out backstage where they could nosh on a catered spread of goodies.
“We just want them to have fun and get those experiences you see on TV,” Chi said.
“We want them to feel like rock stars for the day,” Chaurand said.