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Janelle’s Story

If you even noticed the advertisement for Jazz Camp for Grownups and took pause to consider it, I think you should sign up and come along. There is no mystery why so many of attendees sign up to come again at the end of the week. It is an experience that you won’t want to miss.

Me? I went because I wanted to play…all day, every day, for a week. I got it back. I found the zip in my step, the smile on my face, the iron in my chops, and the song in my heart that just wouldn’t stop. You guessed it, I signed up to do it again the next summer.

I just wanted to play.

I had no idea what to expect when I first signed up for Jazz Camp for Grownups. Most of my non-musician friends and family thought I was out of my mind. I didn’t have any logical response for them. I am a trumpet player and I wanted to play some jazz music.

Anyone who has ever attended camp as a kid knows those feelings that come with the sign up. At first, there is a lot of excitement because the description in the brochure sounds so great, but then some apprehension sets in. Will I make friends? Will the food be good? Will the accommodations be ok? Will I have fun? Will I learn new things? Will it be worth my time and money? I can make it easy for you. The answer is yes. You can put your doubts away. Do you want to play some jazz music? If you can enthusiastically and positively respond “yes” to that question, there is no doubt that you will enjoy Jazz Camp for Grownups.

When I arrived for my first week at Jazz Camp, I had my doubts, mostly about myself. Would I be a good enough player? I wasn’t expecting what I found. Presented to me was an endless supply of talented musicians and teachers, both campers and staff. The ranks were filled with a wide variety of skilled musicians from all over the country, each excited about putting together a show that highlighted the strengths of its players. I got what I needed to find my confidence as a player…coaching from the pros and support from my band mates and just the right amount of stretch to make me grow.

There were a million “Oh, wow!” moments, and I was in the middle of them. It is really impossible to capture these experiences in words. I love saying, “That was me, with the world famous saxophone player, Jerry Bergonzi, trading eights on ‘Round Midnight.” And while his playing was jaw dropping fantastic, he gave the compliment to me. I had never really been around professional musicians and, like most people who have achieved a great level of success, I expected courtesy from them but not comradery. Throughout the week , through practice sessions, improv sessions, faculty concerts, master classes, private lessons and informal conversations, the pros provided instant inspiration. Even though gifted beyond measure, and even though success had been accomplished through years of hard work and dedication, these musicians shared a similar mantra, “You can do it, too. This is what I did.” I went from being a section player who had never improvised to a lead player taking the improv solo over the course of two summers. I went from a casual listener of jazz to a careful listener of jazz. And, today, I improv with a few groups at home and can participate in open jam sessions, all as a result of the teaching, coaching and honest friendships made at Jazz Camp.

I am going back again this summer. I still want to play all day, every day for a week. Just like any camp, I look forward to seeing friends again and meeting new friends. I look forward to growing as a player, reliving past successes, and getting another chance. Most of all, I look forward to being inspired again by the incredible, up-close and personal performances, of my friends.

by Janelle Bradshaw