Kids Rock: Summer camp teaches music-making skills

| - July 23, 2011

Summer camp helps kids, teens hone skills in music-making

It’s a hot July afternoon and the guitarists are tuning up. They’re listening closely over the sundry background noise upstairs at Candyman Strings and Things for just the right range of notes, neither flat nor sharp, putting tension on strings and unwinding them again. Soon, they will play: working intensely to perfect their songs on this third day of the Candyman Summer Rock Camp. 

Rianna Huertas is one of the campers, and today is her birthday. Today she is one digit older and one step closer to her dream. Her guitar is slung across her body and she’s waiting patiently for the rest of her bandmates to gather. Her calm and focused demeanor belies her age, as she explains that she’s been playing for two years. “I want to be a singer and songwriter,” she says, taking a sip of her soda. “I love to write my own songs.” Huertas, who is influenced primarily by Taylor Swift, has just turned ten years old.

Thanks to a creative brainstorm last year by Candyman owner Cindy Cook and Little Wing proprietor and director rosS (yes, that's how he spells it) Hamlin, this Santa Fe institution is now more than just a mecca where aspiring rockers pass the afternoon hours staring longingly at guitars of possibility. It’s also a place for future generations to get a real taste of the music-making process and rock stardom.

“After Cindy attended a National Association of Music Merchants show in the Spring of 2010, she came back inspired to figure out our educational program,” says Hamlin. “One of the ideas was to flesh out the rock band thing, which was something I had been doing at the store on a smaller scale for about a year already.”

Wanting to take things up a notch—to 11, if you will—Cook and Hamlin created the Summer Rock Band Camp for kids ages 8 to 18. During the intensive 2-week sessions, during which 4 separate bands meet in either mornings or afternoons, campers start from the very beginning. They form a band, vote on a name, choose songs to cover, then practice and fine-tune their music. During the second week, the bands rotate through Stepbridge Studios, where they professionally record a CD. Following that, they head to the radio station—KBAC—for an interview with Ira Gordon.

Then, the big moment arrives, and their song fills the Santa Fe airwaves. “I’m looking forward to being on the radio next week,” says Huertas wistfully.

Cutting a CD and being on the radio is only part of the fun, however. After two weeks of planning, playing, and promoting, each band steps onto the stage and under the lights at Santa Fe Music Exchange in Eldorado.

“We love it,” says Cook, smiling as she watches the campers check amp connections and tweak their tuning pegs.  “We’ve had nothing but accolades,” she continues.

There’s no doubt there will be more accolades in the future both for the camp, and how it adds a much-needed new dimension to youth music education in the City Different, and for the kids who pour their souls into their songs.

“This camp is an opportunity to work with a full band,” says Gambit Kramer, 16. He tunes his guitar one last time, his expression serious. It’s clear that to Kramer, the experience is more than just summer camp. It’s a light that shines into his very future.

“I plan to put my own band together after this is done,” he says succinctly. And then, it’s time to play.

Camp sessions are two weeks long, four hours a day, Monday thru Friday. The campers can choose from morning sessions, 9:00am to 1:00pm, or afternoon sessions 2:00pm to 6:00pm. The last session dates for 2011 are:
August 1 – 12 with a Concert on August 13th
Camp tuition is $500.00
As of this writing, there is still space left in the final camp. Call (505) 983-5906or visit for more details.