The Final Stretch

(The sixth annual GRAMMY Camp, produced by the GRAMMY Foundation from July 10–19, is a residential summer camp for high school students with a focus on providing hands-on instruction about careers in the music industry. will feature select blog entries from camp participants relating their first-hand experiences from this unique educational opportunity. To apply for GRAMMY Camp in 2011, click here.)

By Jenay Ross

Sunday evening's GRAMMY Camp Showcase Concert is quickly approaching, but the campers are not buckling under the pressure. They are quite calm actually. Exhausted, but calm. In the practice rooms the musicians can be seen laying on the floor catching up on sleep. Their sleepiness isn't keeping them from perfecting their songs, however, and they are ecstatic and ready to get up onstage.

At the beginning of the week, the instrumentalists divided into five combos and started work right away. Bassist Travis Werling loves his combo. "I couldn't have asked for a better combo," he said. During his combo's writing process, they had a lot of creative differences, but Werling called it a "good collaborative effort."

Guitarist Gunnar Rolfs has been having a blast with his combo and their instructor, Jason Goldman. "Everything he [Goldman] says is so right. He may come off as insulting, but if you think about it, he's right. I love working with Jason," explained Rolf. He said the only challenge his combo faced was working on transitions and "little nuisances in the song." There were a few tense moments, but there were also great times of relaxing and jamming together.

Most of the musicians agreed that they loved being in their combos. "Oh man, I love it. Everybody's vibe is right. We all click," said bass trombonist Jonathan Huggins. He shared a story about how his combo had some trouble deciding on what to write, so they got a football, played catch outside, and went back inside and wrote their song in 30 minutes. "I think our final product speaks for us. It has the personality of the band," he said with a big smile. He shared that the hardest thing about GRAMMY Camp has been working with seven different singer/songwriters on seven different songs — at the same time.

Last year, Ellie Perleberg was in the Music Journalism track, but this year decided to switch to the Singer/Songwriter track. "It's completely different," she said. She enjoyed having more interaction with the rest of the campers and the chance to collaborate with them. "I got five of the girls to do an a cappella bridge. It was really cool, because I walked into the room with the band and I said 'I want this to sound like a classic country song.' Five minutes [later], they had it nailed down," she said excitedly.

The combos recently began recording in the USC campus studio. These past couple of days in L.A. have been really hot, making rooms in the studio and the dorms a little uncomfortable. Aside from the heat, recording has gone really well but the campers were more focused now on performing at the showcase concert at the El Rey Theatre. "I'm really excited, because it's a really famous stage and a lot of my heroes have played on that same stage, so it's an honor," said Werling. 

(Bay Area-resident Jenay Ross is a third-year GRAMMY Camp participant in the Music Journalism track and will be attending the University of Southern California this fall as a print journalism major.)

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