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Youth rock camp prepares kids for concerts

The camp performs at the WOW Hall on August 12.
Nathan Wilk
The campers performed at WOW Hall on August 12.

For young musicians, joining a band is about more than just learning instruments. They need to develop confidence, stage presence, and interpersonal skills. For 15 years, a Eugene summer camp has tried to build these by thrusting students into public rock performances.

This week, campers took over WOW Hall, rehearsing loose and loud covers. They have just days to choose and to learn their material.

Music’s Edge Rock Camp hosts weeklong sessions for campers ages 10 to 18. Attendees form bands and rehearse setlists under the mentorship of experienced musicians. Afterwards, they perform at local venues.

Tim McLaughlin founded the camp in 2007. He said attendees learn to audition, manage band disagreements and perform under pressure.

“There's so much in the music industry that you can't really be taught. You can't go to college and learn all these things.”

Instructor Cameron Wick said nighttime rock shows in Eugene are typically 21-and-over, and therefore inaccessible to youth. The camp brings in guest artists from those scenes.

Spencer Misfeldt plays in Candy Picnic, a Eugene band that formed at the camp. They returned as guests in 2021.

“We really wouldn't have been a band without that camp. And I think as a band, the four of us being there was the perfect example of what the camp can do for you. And seeing someone come from where you are, and seeing them being successful, makes a goal seem a lot more accessible."

JD Dillabaugh has attended the camp since he was 13-years-old. Now 18, he said he’s formed close bonds with peers and instructors.

“The rock community to me is about safety in chaos. I feel like you get out of your comfort zone with people that you may not know, in places that are strange.”

Wick said the support between campers empowers them to get on-stage.

“Being up there with their friends is often comforting, because a lot of them are doing this for the first time. And so being able to share that vulnerability definitely helps.”

Instructor Kurt Catlin said performing can be a form of therapy, an outlet and an endorphin rush. He hopes students learn this, even if they don’t ultimately pursue careers in music.

“Music has helped me get through some of my toughest times in life. And so that's a gift that I want them to continue, if nothing else just to find the joy of it.”

Music’s Edge Rock Camp will play the WOW Hall on August 19, and at the Saturday Market on August 20.

Nathan Wilk joined the KLCC News Team in 2022. He is a graduate from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Born in Portland, Wilk began working in radio at a young age, serving as a DJ and public affairs host across Oregon.