Musician-teacher gets grant for camp

Musician-teacher gets grant for camp, by Steve Sherman
February 12, 2002; The Review (Bryn Mawr, PA), p. 4

Wissahickon resident and musician Greg Wright, who’s now in his 40s and has played music professionally since he was in his teens, says that he began operating a summer music camp to give aspiring musicians a venue to perform.

“I looked at my own personal experiences with music growing up,” said Wright. “I realized that kids need an outlet for their music.”

While residents of Our Town may not know Wright, they may be familiar with one of the bands that he performs in ? The Wild Bohemians a large ensemble that plays New Orleans street jazz at the Canal Day Parade and at the Gorgas Park Summer Concert Series.

Wright and Summer Music Programs (SMP) – a music camp which he founded and directs have just received a $5000 grant. The grant, received from the Mockingbird Foundation, was provided to enable eight low?income teens from Philadelphia public schools to attend Summer Music Programs during the summer of 2002.

Wright said he applied for the grant because he was looking for quality musicians from the inner city that he knew were out there. Wright said that most public school music programs are limited and he wanted to give the kids a chance to perform in a more intimate atmosphere.

“Most musicians participating in public in schools music programs have to perform in large ensembles.” said Wright. “Our program gives the kids a chance to do small ensembles. It gives the kids a chance to shine.”

Summer Music Programs was founded in 1993 to help give young musicians an opportunity to meet and play with other musicians. The program is supervised by professional and collegiate musicians. at the campus of Harcum College in Bryn Mawr.

Those signing up for the program individually, form bands which play together for the length of the camp. Supervising musicians work with the members of each band, some of which have never met or played together before, to chose songs, rehearse and prepare for weekly concerts played before the student’s friends, family and Harcum College students who might want to sneak a peak at the future rock-n-rollers.

While some of the student-musicians sign up for the overnight camp individually, others sign up for the music program as complete bands.

“The overnight camp is possibly the best opportunity a band like ours can have,’ said a former SMP student.

Much of the time spent by student-musicians attending the overnight camp is centered around the Friday evening concerts. Wright remembers the first evening concert held in summer 1999.

“We rented some lights and had the stage all set,” said Wright. “The performance was electrifying.”

Wright and his associate instructors have since added smoke machines and strobe lights to enhance the Friday evenin g performances.

In 1999, the overnight music camp lasted only one week. Last year, the overnight program was held for three weeks and this year’s camp will be held for four weeks. Students are given instruction from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Lights out is at 11 p.m. Students sleep in Harcum dormitories and have breakfast in the school’s cafeteria.

For those who want to go home every night, a day program, which lasts eight weeks, is also available.

During both the day and overnight music programs, instructors help the student-musicians prepare for one final recording session. The aspiring musicians leave the summer music camp with a digitally recorded copy of their work. For some, it is their first musical recording.

“Going into the studio is something that most of these kids dream of doing,” said Wright. “We are musical dreams become a reality.

Wright gets a kick out of seeing the student’s musical dreams become a reality.

“When you hear the kids say stuff like “This is the best summer I’ve ever had’ and ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this,’ it really makes you feel great,” said Wright.

The student-musicians are encourad the music they want to play, although some restrictions do aply, said Wright. Students are sometimes advised during th record sessions – which are monitored – to remove certain lyrics.

“We don’t allow any drug anthems or any hate lyrics,” said WRight. “There are some songs that sit on the border.”

Students spent a significant amount of time preparing for the final recording session, deciding what will be over-dubbed and what typeo of graphics will adorn the jacket of their CD.

Wright said that many who have attended his music program have come back to instruct others during the annual summer music camp.

This is the third time that the Mockingbird Foundation has distributed grants for musical education to programs like Wright’s. For Wright, it is the first time his group has received the grant. In all, the foundation has distributed over $170,000 to fund musical education for children.

The Mockingbird Foundation is made up of an all volunteer uroup of fans of the band Phish – a rock-jam ensemble that plays music similar to the same musical genre as the Grateful Dead. The non-profit foundation generates funds through sales of a book and a CD. The book is Phish Companion (Backbeat Books) – a 928-page tome that chronicles the band, and the CD is Sharin’ in the Groove, a double album that pays tribute to Phish with covers of many of the band’s more popular tunes.

Sharin’ in the Groove features nearly two hours ofmusic from an impressive roster of 23 acts including The Wailers (of Bob Marley fame), Dave Matthews, Jimmy Buffett, John Scofield, Son Seals, Arlo Guthrie, Phish lyricist Tom Marshall, as well as members of the Trey Anastasio Band, Jefferson Airplane, Talking Heads, and Los Lobos, among others.

On the day Wright and his group received the grant, the Mockingbird Foundation also donated more than $30,000 to fund music education for children nationally and across the globe. The funds were divvied up into eight grants that weredistributed to oroanizations that benefit low-income, musically-gifted children from California to Connecticut, and Kentucky to Kosovo. Typically, the funds are used to fund instruments, instructorships and curriculum and professional development for teachers. Another Mockingbird grant went to a Flemington, Kentucky chapter of Feed God’s Children. The Christtan organization will use the funds to provide instructors, instruments and other needs for the implementation of classes in banjo, mandolin, fiddle, and bluegrass vocalization for 40 at-risk children in Kentucky’s distressed Appalachian counties.

Still another went to Shropshire Music Foundation, an Arizona-based orcranization that operates the Kosovo Youth Perforinance Project, a summer-camp-based prograin of the Kosovo Children’s Music Initiative which will give Kosovar, Albanian, Serbian, Bosniak, and Rome youth in the composition, staging, and public performance of a musical production promoting human rights and multi-ethnic tolerance in Gjakove, Kosovo in summer 2002.

Wright says public school students who are interested in applying for the SMP grant should contact their school’s

music instructor. Those wishing to he considered for the grant must write an essay explaining why they would like to attend the camp. Wright will also take into consideration recommendations made the applicant’s school music teacher.

Thanks to Greg Wright of Summer Music Programs for sending the press clipping.

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