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Grammy Camp immerses students in the world of professional musicians

High school students visit USC for 10 days of performing, networking and learning

Editor’s note: The writer is a high school student who took part in the Grammy Camp. The video was produced, shot and edited by Grammy Camp participants, and the music was produced by camp participants as well.


The phrase was imprinted on the minds of students at Grammy Camp Los Angeles this year from the moment they arrived on the University Park Campus for a 10-day immersive experience: “This is not fantasy camp.”

Beginning June 20, 72 students from England, Japan and across the United States learned about the reality, not the fantasy, of the music industry. The campers had the opportunity to select and learn from seven instructional tracks: audio engineering, songwriting, vocal performance, instrumental performance, music journalism, music business and video production.

Network, network, network

Throughout their stay, students in each track were encouraged to network with one another. To do so made good business sense, they were told, as students never know where in the music industry fellow campers will be in a few years.

Lyndsy Munich, a singer-songwriter from Buffalo, N.Y., who took part in the audio engineering track, made a promise to herself to meet everyone at the camp, whether they are students or faculty members. “I learned that networking doesn’t have to be a scary term when you’re completely genuine and authentic with people,” she said.

During camp, students were able to talk and connect with performers ranging from jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington to Ryan Merchant of the indie rock duo Capital Cities. Panels included behind-the-scenes music professionals such as Priscilla Clarke, CEO of the public relations firm Clarke & Associates in Washington, D.C., and music producer Rob Knox, who has worked with Justin Timberlake, Joe Jonas and Rihanna, among others.

I met so many amazing people in the industry that taught me so much.

Katie Liebetrau

“I met so many amazing people in the industry that taught me so much,” said Katie Liebetrau, a camper in the music business track from Michigan. “Getting the opportunity to meet actual music supervisors and ask them questions about their profession was incredible.”

Students in the performance-based tracks were separated into four combos, named SAIKO, Larry’s Berries, Also Nonaz and justinkase. Bassist Omar Akrouche, a member of the combo SAIKO, said the lesson he will remember most from teacher Leslie Drayton was Drayton’s admonition to “listen more, play less.”

“He cuts straight to the chase,” Akrouche said of Drayton, a trumpeter and composer. “It made it very easy to want to stay on top of your parts.”

Grammy Camp

A Grammy Camp video production student films a music video with vocal performance campers. (USC Photo/Daniel Anderson)

Launch party

On the last day of the camp, students traveled to the historic El Rey Theatre in the Miracle Mile district of Los Angeles, a popular venue for top music acts, to put on a launch party — to launch their careers. The event, to which friends and family were invited, allowed students to show off the skills they learned during the 10 days they were at camp, Grammy Foundation Executive Education Director David Sears said.

All four combos performed original songs produced with campers from the vocal performance, songwriting and audio engineering tracks. Many campers spoke on stage, introducing the combos or giving business pitches to Kamasi Washington and Jeff Gitelman, a songwriter and member of the Stepkids. The Launch Party was an opportunity for the campers to watch a show they put together as well as say goodbye to each other, their counselors and teachers.

“I feel so strongly that I will end up working with the people I met in Grammy Camp,” said bassist Akrouche. “It gave me hope, and some of the recognition that I was indirectly looking for. And it helped cement my ideas of how the ever-changing music industry works.”

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