(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. GRAMMY.com 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 Julian Ring and Jenay Ross
"If I was going to submit a demo to a record label right now, I'd have a blank white case with big black letters on the cover that say, 'Listen'!" said Adam Levine, vocalist of Maroon 5. This was just one example of the humor Levine and fellow bandmate Jesse Carmichael infused into their discussion with students representing the various instrumental performance tracks at GRAMMY Camp on July 13. Levine and Carmichael also discussed their backgrounds as artists, and provided campers with valuable advice about how to be good, proactive musicians.
During their hour-long talk, Levine and Carmichael covered everything from playing local shows to finding a great manager (on which they emphasized the importance of trust), and every detail in between. While Levine said he had little formal training as a musician, Carmichael, who plays keyboards for the band, revealed he is quite knowledgeable in music theory and technique. "[Formal training] would have been a nice tool to have," said Levine, who nevertheless agreed with Carmichael's statement about music being "very instinctive."
Levine and Carmichael were keen to stress the importance of such online social networking tools as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. "I sound like an old man, but I didn't have the YouTube," joked Levine in a faux old-man voice. Levine described the campers' peers in high school as a "built-in audience" for them to advertise their music. Carmichael added that starting out musicians almost always start without any fans or money. However, it is possible to gain both with diligence and hard work. "We had to hustle to sell tickets," said Levine.
The duo also gave many thoughtful insights into what makes a great musician. "Simplicity is [the] hardest thing to master," said Levine. "The greatest musician learns it all, but does something that makes them unique. Simplicity always wins."
The biggest surprise was not the inside information provided by Levine and Carmichael, but what came afterward. Toward the end of the discussion, camp faculty member Jason Goldman suggested that a few of the combos perform songs they had been working on for the Maroon 5 members. Levine and Carmichael enthusiastically agreed, and so an impromptu mini-showcase ensued. Three combos performed an original song each, and guests seemed very impressed with the students' talent. Carmichael was so impressed, he tweeted, "At GRAMMY Camp with some really talented kids right now. The future looks good."
The musicians learned some invaluable lessons from Levine and Carmichael. "The most important thing is love what you do," Carmichael stressed. Bringing in successful musicians from a GRAMMY-winning group such as Maroon 5 allowed the campers to see the fruits of the concepts they are taught right in front of their eyes. It was an experience none of them will likely forget.
(Julian Ring is a Bay Area high school student attending his first GRAMMY Camp as part of the Music Journalism track. Ring operates his own music blog, Up To 11, which features his views and opinions on music.)
(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.)