Flashback: Camp Jam (September 2007)

Not terribly long ago, families could safely wait until early March to book a spring break trip to Florida. How times have changed.
Today, spring break is planned in December and the first week of March is reserved for signing the kids up for summer camp. If your child is more into picking up a guitar than a soccer ball, you may want to consider Camp Jam for Kidz.
Every summer, some of rock 'n' roll's most talented performers gather for a five-day camp to pass their years of music experience along to aspiring young musicians. These gifted professionals help up-and-coming singers, guitarists, bassists and keyboardists gain the confidence they need to potentially reach their rock 'n' roll fantasies.
Camp Jam for Kidz is designed for kids in two separate age groups: 7-10 and 11-17. Children in the older age group have to have at least six months or more of musical experience to attend the camp, while the sessions for the younger group are geared toward kids with no musical experience.
Asked if this is like a junior "American Idol," Danny Lipson, co-founder of Camp Jam shot back, "No way. We are nothing like that. We actually work with the kids to give them what they need. We never criticize them. This is all about engaging people and having fun."
Down-to-Earth experience for rock's stars
Instead of hitting the huge arenas to play to massive crowds, musicians like Liberty DeVitto, who was Billy Joel's drummer for years, enjoys going one-on-one with his "students."
DeVitto, who was in town for a recent adult version of the camp and has participated in other camps, seems to relish the atmosphere. Fellow musicians and students listen raptly to his stories about being on the road and in the studio.
After I handed him my copy of Billy Joel's "Kohuept" album, DeVitto looked at an album jacket photo of himself and said, "This was 20 years ago. I still think I have that shirt. Here's another one of me. Where did my hair go?"
Asked if he's hitting the road with any other big bands in the near future, DeVitto quipped, in his New York accent, "Hey, right now this is my tour!"
Young drummers who participate in Camp Jam for Kidz may not have been around to see DeVitto in those days, but they will be amazed by his expertise.
The same could be said of the other participants, including vocalist/guitarist Derek St. Holmes, who worked with Ted Nugent. Just like DeVitto, St. Holmes is a baby boomer who's reached a stage in his career where it is fulfilling to give back to the fans - especially the younger ones.
"I'm in my early 50s, and this feels good," St. Holmes said.
38 Special member founded Camp Jam
St. Holmes and DeVitto were recruited by guitarist/songwriter Jeff Carlisi, who started this camp in 2004 after leaving his band 38 Special about 10 years ago. With his impressive Rolodex, Carlisi has been able to attract the heavy hitters of rock, such as past participants Mark Rivera, Billy Joel's sax player and director of Ringo Starr's band, as well as Ed King of Lynyrd Skynyrd.
The weeklong Camp Jam sessions run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. It all culminates in a concert at the camp's conclusion.
If mom and/or dad are interested in doing the adult version, camps are available in cities like Cleveland which holds the event at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.


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