Wolf Files: Strange Summer Camps

Strange Summer Camps Adventures

June 28, 2004 — This summer, your kid could trade guitar licks with a rock star, swing from a trapeze, or even have a weenie roast with a nudist — depending on which camp the child attends.

Summer camps are getting a lot more specialized, catering to the special interests of children and their parents. In some cases, you'll have to pack a whole lot more than a tennis racket. Here are a few that caught my eye: Camp Jam: Campers don't go to Camp Jam to skip the stones. They go to become the Stones.

There are music camps all over the country, and all of them claim that their teachers are special. But how many of them have music teachers who were actually in .38 Special?

Jeff Carlisi, the lead guitarist of the '80s-era band, says he began dreaming of a summer program to teach his stadium-tested guitar chops to kids shortly before Jack Black's hit movie School of Rock.

Carlisi, 52, who co-wrote such jukebox staples as "Hold on Loosely," and "Caught Up In You," now runs a one-week, $500 training course in Atlanta for kids, ranging in age from 11 to 18, of all skill levels. Camp Jam opened last week with 70 little rockers putting on a show with the help of several bona fide rockers, including Liberty DeVitto, who is best known as Billy Joel's drummer.

"The real charge is seeing them come in all shy, some with not much experience, and then seeing them stand shoulder to shoulder, heads high, for a jam at the end of the week," says Carlisi.

A camper should have about a year's worth of music instruction, but there's no audition. "You might finish the week playing a simple song like 'Wild Thing,' in a band with other kids at your level, if that's what you can do," says Carlisi. "The real fun part is learning how to make music with people."

Camp Jam isn't exactly a fantasy camp. Trashing a hotel room and preparing a self-serving Grammy "thank you" speech are skills you'll have to learn on the job. But Carlisi does pass along some pointers in case you find yourself before a sold-out arena: "Make each person feel like you're performing just for them."