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Young musicians enjoy a ‘rocking’ summer
Camp is annual tradition at store
Vocalist Jordan Sudduth rocks out with her bandmates Conrad England, center, and Michael Watkins during Music Authority’s summer Rock Camp. - photo by Crystal Ledford

CUMMING — Many 13-year-old girls probably haven’t heard the classic rock song “Bad Company.”

But that’s not the case for Jordan Sudduth, who on Wednesday morning was belting out the lyrics under multi-color lights while several of her peers accompanied her on drums, bass, guitars and keys.

The Lakeside Middle School student is one of about 50 kids who went through Music Authority’s Rock Camp this summer.  

The music store in Merchants Square held two one-week sessions of its popular Rock Camp in June and July.

The final week wrapped up Friday with a large-scale concert at The Warehouse in Midway, where all the participants got to perform songs they worked on throughout the camp for a crowd of their “fans” of family and friends.

Melissa Loggins, one of the owners of the shop, said Rock Camp has been a popular fixture at Music Authority for 11 of the 12 years the store has been open.

“We’ve been doing the Rock Camp so long that we have it down pretty much to an absolute science,” Loggins said.

She said each camp session is open to 25 students, with priority going to those who take private lessons throughout the year at the business.

Each participant has to have at least a basic understanding of how to play their instrument, although Loggins said she and the other instructors can work with just about any experience level.

“Some of the kids are at a very, very basic level, but we can make things work as long as they have some understanding of their instrument,” she said. “But if you’ve never played guitar before, there’s no way you’re going to be successful in this camp.”

Loggins said the first day of each camp session is always fun.

“Monday morning is really fun because they have to each get up on stage and tell us their name, their favorite band, their favorite food and then they have to play their instrument or sing for us,” she said. “We then place them in bands and after lunch, we start rotations where they start learning their songs.”

The students remain in their band the entire week, working on several songs through group and individual lessons, which they will rock out during the finale concert at the end of the week.

Sudduth said she had watched her older brother take part in the finale concerts several times, so this year she decided to try out her vocal chords.

“He was in at least three of them and I’d always go to the performances and be like, ‘Oh, that’s so cool. I really want to do that,’” she said.

On Wednesday, she said she had learned some important lessons about singing.

“I’ve learned how to breathe properly because I laid on the stage and had a book on my stomach,” she said. “And I’ve met a whole bunch of new people … you all work together, so I’ve made a lot of new friends.”

She said she’s also learned to be prepared for impromptu performances.

“You definitely have to be on your toes because you never, ever know if you’re going to have to perform,” she said. “Melissa will make us get on stage at any moment and sing right then.”

Jake Lanni, 15, has taken part in Rock Camp for about seven consecutive years. This summer, he worked as a teaching assistant and the camp experience “gets better and better every year.”

“I’ve made a lot of friends, had a lot of wonderful experiences, learned a whole bunch about playing with groups and being able to rely on one another,” he said. “It really teaches you a lot.”

His words are melodic to Loggins’ ears because she said letting kids have fun through performing rock songs is just one small part of the camp.

“What the kids think they’re doing is learning songs so they can play in a rock show on stage, and it’s lights and it’s cameras and it’s the big production in a venue that seats 275 people and it’s standing room only,” she said.

“That’s what the kids think is happening, but what the adults know is happening is they’re learning how to communicate.

“They’re learning how to chart music, because music is a language — a written language and a spoken language — and if all you ever do is play guitar by yourself, you don’t learn how to actually speak the language.”

She said over the years, more and more of an emphasis has been placed on communication and not just through music.

“Communication has become a bigger and bigger portion of what we do because so many kids are texting all the time that they don’t know how to talk to each other,” Loggins said. “If they don’t communicate, then the music is not going to work onstage.

“They’re also learning about teamwork, they’re learning about how to get along with people they might not necessarily get along with. We’re teaching them a lot of life skills.”

Parent Scott Marcus, whose 10-year-old son Tommy took part in his first Rock Camp this year, said the experience was a good one.

“He is just ecstatic over [camp],” Marcus said. “He loves to be up on stage and perform.”

Tommy Marcus has been taking drum lessons for a little more than a year at Music Authority and just started playing guitar a couple of weeks before his Rock Camp session.

His dad said music has helped his son “come out of his shell.”

“Before he got involved with music, he was a very shy, reserved kid,” he said. “But now that he’s here and he’s been taking lessons … he’s just really blossomed. He’s a completely different kid; he’s a lot more confident.”

Scott Marcus said the Rock Camp experience is something special.

“What’s great is that all the kids, even though Tommy’s really new on guitar, all the kids in his band are really supportive and really are helping him out along the way,” he said. “The older kids are really taking care of him. I’ve been thrilled with everything here.

“Not every kid’s going to fit in on a sports team, but a lot of kids can fit in with a band scene or just playing music or singing. And it’s great that we’ve got something like this that lets them have this creative outlet.”