Caitlin always loved music and singing. I never pushed her to become a future American Idol. The very idea sickened me every time Simon Cowell dashed a young person’s dream with, “You cahn’t sing.” With thousands of hours of practice and dedication, more people can sing than you think, Simon! Thankfully Simon’s 15 minutes are up in that world, but there’s always another armchair critic ready to take his place. I never wanted to subject my child to that, but I wanted to nurture her musical interests. Every since she was about 3-years-old, I saw that she instantly fell in love with the children’s music including The Wiggles and pop music such as The Beatles. It was a good base to begin with as she eased into enjoying and emulating mainstream acts that baffle me these days including Lady GaGa and Ke$ha.
A few years ago, I brought Caitlin along on a story that I was working on for a local paper. It was about a new rock and roll fantasy camp headed by .38 Special guitarist Jeff Carlisi here in Atlanta . Jeff’s idea was simple: invite regular weekend warrior musicians to play with their rock heroes for a weekend. The concept caught on quickly in Atlanta and later, in several cities including Dallas , Phoenix and San Francisco to name a few.
As part of my Camp Jam coverage, I invited Caitlin to get up behind the mic and perform. Never in my wildest dreams would I think my child would sing for Liberty DeVitto, Billy Joel’s former drummer. I clearly remember Liberty at the back of Billy’s stage in the Richfield Coliseum over two decades ago banging away on his drums as he was introduced to the roaring crowd. Here was Liberty — who played for millions – now listening to my kid attempting Kelli Clarkson’s “Breakaway.”
Some time had passed and I wrote another Camp Jam story. This time out I got to know the crew a bit more. Joan Jett’s guitarist Ricky Byrd opened up about his wild past and how much he learned from it. Liberty informed me that he had been consuming too much potassium. I offered that his next band ought to be called Potassium Overload.
After that encounter, I had Caitlin in mind for the Camp Jam Day Camp for kids ages 11-17. While she enjoyed singing with her friends and to the radio in private, Caitlin wasn’t exactly thrilled about doing it with a live band. With some trepidation, I enrolled her into the camp, where, during the first day, bands were formed. Hers was called “Windows 7 Was Our Idea.”
When I picked her up after the first day, she said, “The band doesn’t like anything that I like.”
“What do they like?” I queried.
“AC/DC and Foo Fighters,” she answered.
Oh no, this wasn’t going to be fun. “Well, this is how bands are, Caitlin. They have to make group decisions,” I said. “Just stick with it.”
Stick with it, she did. The weeklong camp was well structured with a variety of musical classes headed by some of the best professionals in the business. Caitlin’s confidence was boosted in the vocal classes. Her instructor worked with her to find her range for a rather difficult song that her band picked.
“They picked ‘Dani California,'” Caitlin said.
“Red Hot Chili Peppers? Wow! That’s tough!” I confessed.
“I know Daddy,” she answered, somewhat stressed.
Nevertheless, there she was in her room at night, singing along with the 2006 single which is jam-packed with lyrics that are set to a fast “pop/rap.” Even though she learned the lyrics and timing, it was the volume that was most challenging. After all, Caitlin is 11 going on 12. She has a small voice and she had to sing over three guitars amped by teenage boys who all yelled in unison, “just sing louder.” Boys will boys and these boys like to grow their hair long so that they can hide behind their bangs and guitars. The vocal coach worked with her to overcome all of this so that she could perform at the camp’s final concert at the end of the week.
When we arrived, the auditorium was packed with band members’ families and friends cheering them on. It was a bit like a battle of the bands, but without the voting. Some acts featured some good pop tunes like The Beatles’ “Come Together” and others had quite a bit of metallic incomprehensible thrashing that was much to the delight of a mother sitting behind us. Caitlin’s turn came in the middle of the program. I was more nervous for her than she was. Indeed it was tough to hear her over the guitars since the sound was unmixed, but she did well considering what she was up against.
I’m not attempting to make my child a pop star. I’ll leave that up to the thousands of other parents around the world who are trying to do that for their kids. To me, Camp Jam is more about learning, growing and building confidence. When all was said and done, Caitlin chalked it up as another life experience.
For more information about Camp Jam, phone 1-800-513-0930 or visit www.campjam.com