The Head And The Heart
Courtesy of the Recording Academy™/photo by Rebecca Sapp, Getty Images © 2019
GRAMMY Camp Inspires Dreams, Not Fantasies
At some camps, participants get to go live out their dreams for a day, a week, or maybe more. But at GRAMMY Camp, participants are provided with real-world tools to pursue their dreams not just for a day, or a week, but for a lifetime.
In fact, "this is not fantasy camp" was the theme of this year's 15th annual GRAMMY Camp, and the phrase that immediately caught my attention as I walked into the Carson Center at the University of Southern California, Thornton School of Music on July 24 for day two of GRAMMY Camp. The special guests for the day were Seattle-based indie folk-rock group The Head And The Heart, who were there not only to entertain but to educate. Throughout the afternoon, I got a sense that there was a barrier breaking down between artists and students. What started as a conversation in which the artists were talking to the students, turned into a two-way stream between likeminded individuals.
That’s what makes GRAMMY Camp not a fantasy camp. It’s real life. Students learn practical tools from real professionals working in the business who want to help them have real careers.
The students that attend GRAMMY Camp are eager to learn, network and develop their own path for success. That eagerness was palpable as the participants had the opportunity to lead the discussion portion of the afternoon event with the Head and the Heart, asking career-oriented questions and getting real-world answers.
David Sears, Executive Director of Education for the GRAMMY Museum, says inviting newer artists to participate in GRAMMY Camp provides students with more tangible learning opportunities.
"While we won’t say no to an artist who's been established and a big superstar for a long time, we like having younger artists here who, not too long ago, were sitting in these chairs, [or] could have been sitting in these chairs," says Sears. "It makes for a better connection."
Alec Davila, a first-time GRAMMY Camper from Los Angeles participating in the Vocal Performance track experienced that unmatched, intimate connection between industry professionals and students that GRAMMY Camp offers.
"It feels so much cooler than anything else just because you feel like you’re kind of in on it," says Davila. "You know what they're talking about, and they know that you know what they’re talking about. It’s more of a conversation that you can have with them, and there’s less of a barrier between the stage and the audience."
During the conversation, one camper asked if any of the band members ever had doubts about pursuing a career in music.
"I think you have to have doubts," says drummer Tyler Williams. "That’s how you know you’re right. When you can fight through that. There are a lot of people who want to do this. And there are a lot of doubts that stop people from doing it. But if you can fight through that, I think you’re winning the battle. If you can fight through the lack of money, comfort [and] safety. Those are the barriers that stop people from their dreams, and you have to push through."
"There will undoubtedly be doubts, and things trying to pull you down, tell you to stop, tell you you’re irrational, along the whole way," adds vocalist Charity Rose Thielen. "You will always doubt for one reason or another. You just have to ignore that and remember your reason that you’re supposed to do this. This is your purpose you have that fire. You’re the only person that can maintain that fire against doubt."
Other campers asked questions about their influences if they ever felt like they needed to move to Los Angeles to launch their music careers, and how to know when it’s time to release a song. All six band members shared how they learned to play their individual instruments, how they formed or joined the band, and how mentorship played a significant role in their careers.
GRAMMY Camp also seems to be equally as rewarding for the artist and industry participants as it is for the students. The Head And The Heart vocalist/singer Matt Gervais commented during the conversation portion of the event, "It’s fun to be in a room full of likeminded people." The program closed with an acoustic performance featuring songs including "Library Magic," "Missed Connection" and "See Through My Eyes."
In an interview following the program, The Head And The Heart's Williams, Thielen, and Gervais opened up about their personal musical mentors and the importance of a program like GRAMMY Camp.
"It’s kind of serendipitous how many people have come in and out of my life and have just opened a door for me or showed me the way," says Gervais. "When we were freshman in high school, there was a guy who opened up the portables outside the high school for us to be able to jam in after school because there was nowhere else for us to play. And my mom was actually the one who kind of coordinated with him and set it up because otherwise, we were playing in the basement until late at night."
Williams adds, "That's why music education is so important. Finding those mentors. I think music education keeps that culture alive of fostering artistry in kids, and in school, you don’t find that often. Most things that happen in school are logical things. They’re to help you succeed in a corporate world. But music education is so important because it is something very creative and different from the rest of schooling."
"I think we as a society and world value kind of the logical, but you’re missing out on the intuitive side, the creative side of things," adds Thielen.
"It’s about creativity and being a more well-rounded human being," says Williams. "Not just driven to make money or be productive in a society that demands you to do so. It’s about developing your mind and imagination. Being a better person because of it. I think without music education, or without the people who foster that development in kids, I think we would be much worse off. We could probably stand to use more of it."
Two days following The Head and the Heart's program, GRAMMY Campers were treated to another special conversation and performance with singer/songwriter JoJo on July 26. In an interview before her program, JoJo discussed her music education background, and why music education programs are so crucial for young people with GRAMMY.com.
Related: Interview: JoJo Has Nothing To Hide
"I was fortunate enough to attend public schools that had good music programs," she says. "My band teacher, Mr. Murphy, was someone I looked up to as he was a bandleader/musician in and around Boston. Learning the basics of theory from someone who was living a touring musician’s life was so exciting to me. … My mom was a huge influence on me, too. She has a musical theater/classical soprano singing background and taught me about breath control, resonance, the importance of believing the lyrics you’re singing, and exposed me to a wide variety of music. Without her, I would have never been able to pursue a career in music so young."
On the importance of music education, JoJo believes "every kid deserves to find their own unique way to express what they’re feeling."
This year’s 15th annual GRAMMY Camp, which hosted 90 talented students from across the United States this summer, the most significant number of GRAMMY Campers in the history of the program, was definitely not fantasy camp. It’s safe to say that each of the 90 students who participated left with a new sense of confidence and determination to pursue their dreams, whatever those may be.
And as for the meaning behind the "this is not fantasy camp" phrase, Sears had a story about that.
"'This is not fantasy camp' has become our mantra," he says. "Four or five years ago, I stood up here in this room on this stage, and I told the kids, ‘this is not fantasy camp.’ They didn’t know what I was talking about. I said I was an avid baseball player from as early as I can remember all the way through high school. … I always had a dream of going to the Dodgers Fantasy Camp in Florida. That’s what they called it—fantasy camp. And what made it fantasy camp is you left the life that you knew, you went to fantasy camp, you played ball, pulled muscles, had a bunch of fun. And then you came home, and you were the same person as you were when you left. That’s not what this is supposed to be. You need to leave here with a plan. And if you already had a plan, you need to leave here with a better plan. That’s how this is not a fantasy camp. No one should leave here and be the same as they were when they came."