“The motivating force at the New York Rock Academy is excitement. Regardless of their level of experience, students will be encouraged to explore the music they truly love,” explains Janet Angier, owner of Music in Chappaqua, who started the camp nine years ago. Originally known as Chappaqua Rocks, the camp has evolved to include kids from all corners of Westchester and beyond who not only wish to rock out–but who may also be contemplating a career in music. “Before Chappaqua Rocks, there wasn’t any program that offered true band experiences, where you could design the repertoire you learn and be placed with like-minded peers who have the same level of experience and interest,” says Angier. “Here kids feel really inspired–they play the music they love in a warm, supportive environment.”
Camp faculty–many accomplished and working musicians themselves–help match kids with different skill sets to create bands that mirror real life experiences. For the last two years, Oscar-nominated, Grammy-award winner Dave Bickler, lead singer of the band Survivor (“Eye of the Tiger”), provided weekly mentorship to the students, and this summer’s featured mentors are being confirmed.
Camp Director Danny Golub’s positive and encouraging teaching style sets the tone for the camp. “He can play any instrument, and any kind of music,” Angier comments. A performing artist in his own right, he said he most enjoys witnessing the progress at the New York Rock Academy: “The kids learn important life lessons beyond music. It teaches them how to listen to each other and they learn how to play together. Sometimes we might have a kid who can barely play a note with confidence and by the end of the week, they are rocking it out on stage with style!” The camp also offers an opportunity for kids to try different instruments and explore their interests further. Trained instructors can teach guitar, drums, keyboards, bass, vocals and even songwriting. “We’re always thinking out of the box,” said Golub. Both parents and students are astonished at how the bands are able to perform complete arrangements of songs in a single session.
At least 75 students are typically enrolled throughout the summer, with no more than 25 students kids attending a weekly session. “Because it is such a fun learning environment and students accomplish so much in such a short amount of time, students generally come back year after year and what is even more exciting, is that almost everyone makes music become a part of their lives through this camp experience. Whether they go on to study music at college, or become connected with the industry as professionals, the New York Rock Academy is an amazing launching pad,” Angier explains. Angier’s own daughter, 11-year-old Tori Robinson, is one perfect example. Tori, who has been attending the camp for three summers, is a very talented vocalist and song writer as well. She now has a mentor with a record company in Nashville reviewing her work for a possible record label!
Not only does the New York Rock Academy include this summer program, but it also offers workshops throughout the year. Students are placed in bands that meet weekly throughout the school year, culminating in a performance at a New York City rock club. At one such event in December, the Bitter End in the West Village was packed with moms, dads, siblings and friends having a blast. It’s great fun for family and friends who come out to applaud the kids’ debuts; visitors also experience a genuinely enriching musical experience watching many truly talented kids play, whether it’s contemporary tunes or old-time rock and roll.
Music in Chappaqua parent Renee Syler thoroughly enjoyed performances by her kids, Casey, 16, and Cole, 14, who have attended the Academy for six summers and have received lessons at Music in Chappaqua since 2006. Casey is a vocalist and guitar player and Cole is a “hard core drummer,” said Syler. “Over the years, I have seen them both bud–not only as musicians but as human beings.”
Some of these kids, from this writer’s chair, seemed like they could well be tomorrow’s stars! It’s not an exaggeration to say that the experiences gained at New York Rock Academy form the basis for a lifelong passion for playing in a band both for fun and professionally, explains Angier.
“Through developing and nurturing their souls, the kids learn how to express themselves through music,” says Angier. “They enter a whole world of activity that becomes an integral part of who they are, not just as musicians, but as people.”