The Saint John Rock Camp turns up the volume
Personal Trampoline, one of Saint John’s newest bands, is in full rehearsal.
Keyboard and vocalist Ethan Kernighan, 14, drummer Cameron Thompson, 11, and bassist Dannika McIntyre, 13, walk through their new single, Bouncefor the third time, trying out the song in different ways and offering each other light-hearted criticism.
The song is « about the trampoline – and it’s also about friendship and stuff, » Kernighan said. “We write the ideas for the song first – like the words we like for it. Then we try to think of a loose plot. Then we started thinking about which words will rhyme and which will have a good rhythm. It is very funny. »
Personal Trampoline is just one group formed this week at the Saint John Rock Camp for young girls, genderqueer and trans ages 11-18 at the Interaction School of Performing Arts. All will perform in a showcase at the Imperial Theater on Saturday, August 27.
The free camp, led by local professional musicians and educators and funded by the Saint John Community Arts Board and local sponsors, aims to equip a new generation of Saint Johners with the skills to play new instruments, form bands and perform original songs.
At rock shows in Saint John, you tend to see « a lot of people in the crowd who are girls or gender nonconforming — but we don’t see the same parity on stage or in the role of a technician,” said Rock Camp Executive Director Abigail Smith.
« Camp is a step toward ‘making sure we have an empowering environment. A big part of that is our animators. It is run by music industry professionals and musicians who are all walking in their professional lives.
« It’s about empowering people to speak their truth on stage. »
One of those hosts is Dill Wong, a lifelong musician who plays in the band Womb to Tomb.
Wong says that for them, rock camp was a chance to bring « all kinds of different bands, all kinds of different vibes, all kinds of different looks and feelings and genres of music to life. »
« There really is no right way. That’s what we’re trying to say [musicians] from the start. »
Kids learn from guest speakers such as Cory Bonnevie of Monopolized Records, who led a guest workshop on the label side of the industry. Maggie Higgins of Sculpture Saint John helped campers make backdrops for their group photos. They also take a trip to local 107.3 FM on the UNB campus in Saint John to learn more about campus radio and community radio.
Guitarist Chloe Cook, 16, plays with a « castaway-themed tropical band » called Islander. For their grand finale showcase at Imperial, Chloe and the band created an elaborate set of palm trees, sand and faux water to accompany their « psychedelic, oceanic » sound.
Cook’s musical influences run the gamut: « children’s theme songs, classical music, Queen ».
A guiding principle of Rock Camp, Cook said, is that « no idea is stupid. There are no mistakes, if it’s creative and you’re having fun. »
Island bassist Violet Scott, 15, said that despite the « tropical sounds with lots of wave vibes » – not everything about being a musician is fluid.
« Before every show, I get a little anxious, » Scott said. « But some of the best performances I’ve had were ones where I just wasn’t sure, but then it’s all good if you follow your instincts and let what you play play. »
Rock Camp is « all about connection, » Smith said. “I love Saint John and find it to be a really collaborative city.
« If you want help recording, there are people who will help you. If you need a drummer for your band, you can find them. If you want a graphic designer, people do. as a profession.
« There are people who do this for a living – and they’re really talented. They want to collaborate. They’re already here. They’re already doing it. »
For campers like Kernighan, it’s an opportunity to dream big of what’s possible as a young, creative person in New Brunswick.
“My mind widened to more creative things and all these new aspects of life,” he said.
I think it’s like a whole new me. »