(Last year's campers after they were told, "Act silly.")
Last March I previewed an event at Berkeley High School called JazzGirls Day, when girls could play with and learn from some of the most prominent women jazz musicians in the Bay Area, including saxophonist Jean Fineberg and trumpeter Ellen Seeling, the founders of the Montclair Women's Big Band.
I'm pleased to report the event was a huge success. Attendance exceeded all expectations, and everyone had a great time.
I know because some of the girls thoughtfully emailed me afterwards and told me about it.
I also heard from their mothers and fathers, who said their daughters were greatly empowered by the experience.
"Not only did she learn more in one day than she did in the past year, it was the first time people told her she can play jazz just as well as boys," said one mom.
Well, girls, if one day was so much fun, how'd you like to do it for a whole week?
Many of the same musicians who participated in JazzGirls Day – including Fineberg and Seeling - will also be on the faculty of the 4th annual Jazzschool Girls' Jazz & Blues Camp, which will take place at the Jazzschool in downtown Berkeley from August 6-10.
From Monday through Thursday, the girls will take a variety of electives, including jazz combo, blues & funk, percussion, songwriting, improvisation, roots (aka gospel), vocalizing, Latin music and big band. Each girl will also get an individual one-on-one lesson.
The student/teacher ratio can't be beat: one professional musician for every three campers. And every day at lunch the faculty – including pianist Victoria Theodore of the Stevie Wonder Band and bassist Ruth Davies of the Elvin Bishop Band – will play an hour-long jam session, and the campers will be encouraged to join in.
The week will climax with an all-band concert on Friday, when the campers will show off their new chops to their families, friends and – most importantly – themselves.
All girls – both instrumentalists and vocalists – grades 6-12 are eligible. All you need is some facility on your instrument (except for vocalists, who can be newbies) and the desire to develop your musical skills in a fun environment with other girls.
The change the experience causes in the campers is extraordinary. They start on Monday as sweet but shy young women. It's only natural for a kid that age to assume that all the other campers are old friends and she's the odd one out.
But Fineberg, who is camp director, dispels that notion on the first moment of the first day, when she says, "Everybody who doesn't know anybody else raise your hand." And they all raise their hands.
By Friday they're still sweet as ever. But shy? Fuggedaboutit! These are girls with attitude! There's nothing more heartwarming than a girl who says, "Yes I can!"
Tuition for the week is $475, although some financial aid is available. And you'll need an audition – not to decide whether you're accepted or rejected (everybody is accepted automatically), but to help them determine which skill level group to put you in.
For more information, call 510-758-2200 or visit jazzschool.org/girlscamp. To register and schedule your audition, call 510-845-5373 or visit jazzschool.org/girlsreg/
Have fun, girls. And don't listen to any moron who says girls can't play jazz. Yours is the "Girls rule!" generation.