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Blues Kids Excel
Fernando Jones, Blues Master
Monday morning they started Blues Camp. Wednesday night they did a concert! That barely scratches the surface of what was achieved in three exciting days when about 30 teenagers gathered for the much publicized summer music event.
It had been a hard grind for Sherry Azevedo and her team as they tried to get the information out to the kids and then get the kids actually to sign up. With 10 days to go it looked like the camp would have to be canceled, then all of a sudden - they came!
I called in to see the kids at work on the Tuesday morning. Music director and blues master Fernando Jones had split the kids into four groups for tuition and rehearsal, each group with its own teacher. Spread around the classrooms of Loara High School you might have wondered what was happening. But the focus was intense. Whether junior high kids or older students they were all intent on learning the chord sequences, rhythms and lyrics. One of the parent chaperones commented to me of the thrill the kids were getting - some staying up into the early hours to write music. "They are learning not just to play, but to perform," she said proudly.
Indeed they did perform. On Wednesday night each rehearsal group took the stage in the large Loara theatre and exhibited the aplomb of professional musicians as they swapped out the jacks for the myriad of instruments and mics, introduced their fellow musicians, and set the beat.
It's seems not to matter the age, Fernando will have even the smallest kids lead the band or sing a solo. And when I say small, I mean two of them were barely 5 feet tall and yet behaved like 6 ft giants.
A word about these kids. They were all pretty good musicians before they came. But most of them knew nothing about the blues, nor how they could express their moods and feelings in such soul stirring music. With blues music being basically easy to play it was almost immediately satisfying for them. Every morning they gathered together for 15 minutes of instruction and inspiration from Fernando Jones. By Wednesday night they all adored this slim, laid-back musicologist, this professor from Chicago. And were it not for lack of sufficient funds he would have been here for a week rather than three days! Ah, next year!
But I digress. Whether relatively new, or experienced musicians, all of them had a chance to strut their stuff. One young kid said she turned up on Monday knowing nothing about the blues. At the concert she led the group and sang a solo as though she’d been doing it for years.
Two thirds through the evening Fernando had about six of the kids come up to "testify". Each spoke for a few moments about the three days together, days in which they had their lives changed, made wonderful new friends and could now envisage a new track in life they never knew existed. It was deeply moving.
Here and there were students of sheer genius. The very shy drummer who actually played with incredible speed, complexity and skill admitted that the Camp had helped him get over some of his shyness. And not to be outdone on the shyness front was Chase, a red haired 13 year old who played his electric guitar with the pizzazz and exhibitionism of a seasoned rock musician. For sheer showmanship he would walk around the audience (he had a radio mic. attached to his guitar) playing, and at one time lifted his instrument right over behind his head and played it backwards! I spoke with him afterwards and asked him how long he'd been playing. “Why,” he told me shyly “only two years.” That boy's career in music lies out before him.
And he was not the only. I don't know their names, but every drummer was excellent, as were several other guitarists and brass players.
Make no mistake, Anaheim is producing wonderful musicians and thanks to the Blues Kids Camp, they have taken huge steps forward in their young performing careers.
Fernando coaching his group
A very bright brass section
Extraordinary complexity and rhythm from this shy drummer
The lead singer who knew nothing about the Blues on Monday
Chris - due to work soon with Justin Bieber. A great inspiration to the others.