Local Current Blog

Pencils down, rock hands high: McNally Smith to host Grammy Camp in summer 2014

Photo courtesy Grammy Camp

In June 2014, St. Paul’s McNally Smith College will partner with the Grammy Foundation to host Grammy Camp, a prestigious program for high schoolers who are serious about pursuing a career in music. The camp—which has been held in New York, Los Angeles, and Nashville—teaches teens key lessons for surviving the music industry’s ever-evolving challenges.

After going through a rigorous application process, which puts kids through a wringer of essay-writing and auditioning—“We talk to their teachers, we talk to their guidance counselors,” said Grammy Foundation vice president Scott Goldman—the selected musicians spend a week of Grammy Camp concentrating on different aspects of the music business. Some of the education tracks are performance-based (vocals, percussion, winds and strings); others are focused on business and technical skills like audio engineering, video production, business, and journalism. The cost of the camp is $2,200 per student; some financial assistance is available for students who need it.

No matter what campers focus on, they’ll get a broad primer in entrepreneurship, marketing, and technology through the camp’s comprehensive approach to music education. “If you are a guitar player and you’re accepted to come to Grammy Camp, we know you can play guitar,” Goldman said. “Grammy Camp is not necessarily about making you technically a better guitar player. What it is about is helping high school musicians understand what it takes to use their skills to have a career in music.”

When Goldman talks about preparing kids for careers in the music industry, he sounds just like Harry Chalmiers, the president of McNally Smith. It’s no surprise that they get along; their  thoughts on education seem to be the same. Grammy Camp is a four-year McNally Smith education in miniature: in both the camp and the school, students are taught based on a three-pronged curriculum of artistry, technology, and entrepreneurship. “There’s no question that philosophically, Harry and the school—what they do—it  marries so well with what we do,” Goldman said.

Unlike traditional fine arts camps and colleges, these two programs both acknowledge—and accept, and promote—that having a career in music just isn’t what it used to be. “There will be, in the future, fewer people making a killing as musicians, but a lot more people making a living,” Chalmiers said. Musicians are doing a lot of things on their own these days, and that means they have to know how to market themselves, how to get in touch with people whose aesthetics and tastes line up with their own, how to work together and most importantly, how to make things happen without vying for corporate support.

At Grammy Camp, high schoolers spend the week collaborating with each other and meeting grown-up professionals and artists, the whole thing culminating in a final concert, the music journalists of the pack reporting on the journey all week.

Here’s a video of Chalmiers talking to high school guitarist Mikey LaSusa of Eagan, who went to Grammy Camp last summer in Los Angeles

In addition to the St. Paul session (June 8-16), camp will be held in Los Angeles (July 12-21). Applications are now being accepted.

Sarah Harper is a student at the University of Minnesota.