Like sunlight slanting through branches, bars of music filtered through the fragrant boughs of the Redwood Glen Camp outside Loma Mar last week. One for each key on the piano, 88 young music lovers flexed their musical skills.
It was the fifth annual Jam Camp West, where youth ages 10 to 15 gathered from July 21 through 27 for immersion in music and dance including jazz, funk, blues, hip-hop, beat box or turntable.
Classes were taught by professional musicians and topped off by a performance for family and friends.
“I liked the variety of things you get to learn and the opportunities they allow students to get here,” said Lauren Bang, 13, of Piedmont, during a break in percussion class taught by Jason Ewald. “And the food’s really good.”
Jam Camp, a creation of the Oakland-based nonprofit Living Jazz, reaches out to youth from all racial and economic backgrounds. Much of the music is taught by ear in multiple daily workshops, and there’s also time for team sports or splashing in the big pool.
Counselors and teachers include alums like Charles Simon, 17, of Berkeley, a Jam Camper at 13 who hopes to teach drumming.
“I want to give kids a passion,” he said. “This gives them a whole different outlook on life in general.”
“What happens here is magic, really,” said Deborah Knapp, who co-produces Jam Camp with Stacey Hoffman. “Music is not the end of what we do at all. It’s the common bond that draws children here.”
There’s no judgment, just support and collaboration, said Hoffman. “What they experience here is in spite of the challenges of time and the worlds these kids come from. It’s a loving, caring, gentle place.”
A stroll through scented Redwood Glen groves is like touring today’s music and the youth playing it.
Under one tent, seven students gathered around a ring of steel drums as instructor Mark Rosenthal guided them in tapping out rich-toned melodies. On the shady amphitheater stage, 14 students follow instructor Josiah Woodson in creating a textured jazz sound.
“They’re feeling the importance of making the creative arts an important part of life, getting a sense of connection through music,” said Hoffman, as “Angel of the Morning,” heartfelt with guitar, drums, bass, sax and clarinet, rose into the trees. “They’re using music as a commonality because they’re diverse.”
Ewald presided over students getting a handle on cowbells, congas or bongos, making syncopated sounds with the “shekere” or gourd shrouded with beads, or strident beats with claves.
“I thought this would be a cool, fun and exciting experience,” said Cooper Knutson, 11, of Washington.
Along with the Bay Area kids, two students came from Israel, one from France and one from Wyoming.
Lilienne Reinhardt, 13, from Ashland, Ore., brought her love of jazz dance to Jam Camp for the second year. Buddies Milan Barranco, 14, of San Leandro, who learned about Jam Camp from her piano teacher, and Nina Bridges, 12, of San Francisco, who learned of it from her grandparents, respectively enhanced skills in singing and drumming.
Under the redwoods nearby, “Sing It!” instructor Valerie Troutt led nine students through multiple harmonies. “Tomorrow’s going to be like magic, like a flash mob,” she told them. And nearby, Trelawney Rose led her students through the appealing folk tune “Hallelujah.” “That’s awesome you guys!” she called out encouragingly.
As they sang, “When The Saints Go Marching In” floated through the trees from yet another direction.