Media Monday: Come on, bring the noise! Girls rock, and so do boys

The clatter and crowds of SXSW are gone, spring is here, and that means it’s really time to get the kids signed up for summer camps, before they fill up. The number and variety of music-related camps in Austin is pretty overwhelming, and it’s not possible to talk about them all, but here’s a sampling that may get you started.

Most of the music camps in and around Austin lean toward rock and allow young musicians to improve their skills, play in bands, and learn a little about recording and mixing music, sometimes with a little songwriting thrown in. Rock camps include the intimate Eastside Music Summer Camp, the much larger University of Texas Longhorn Music Camps, Lone Star School of Music’s Little Rock Camp, Band Aid School of Music’s Summer Rock Camp, Rock Lab School of Music Camps, and of course, the Austin School of Rock camps.

If you’re into empowering girls with guitars and amps, check out the Girls Rock Austin summer camps. Theyre operated by a nonprofit dedicated to diversity and music education.

Beyond these staples of headbanging summer fun, there are a few smaller camps that you may want to investigate too:

Blue Frog School of Music offers songwriting, performance, and recording camps in its homey location near the Austin Waldorf School. 

Velocity Music Academy has a wide variety of camps for all ages, focused on learning to play the piano, guitar, violin, and other instruments.

Orpheus Academy of Music Summer Camps are offered all summer and range from world music to broadway to introductory instrument classes.

TexArts camps focus on musical theater.

Paramount Theatre hosts a small songwriting camp for kids in grades 6–10.

Creative Action, a nonprofit group of teacher-artists, has a variety of art- and music-themed summer camps planned for this year, including Broadway or Bust and The Studio: Performer camp, all about writing, mixing, and performing music.

If you live near beautiful Wimberley, Agua Fresca Studios camps all combine visual art with music. They’ve got a Ukelele and Drum Camp for ages 9–12, a Music Camp for ages 10 and up, and an Art and Music Extravaganza camp for little ones 6–8 years old.

For kids who love percussion instruments, Ratamacamp offers camps at area public schools for middle and high schoolers.

The Austin Girls’ Choir has an early June camp for beginning singers and a mid-June camp for advanced singers. Both introduce girls to many music genres, from classical to pop.

And if you have a kid who loves chamber music and wants to play in small groups, the Austin Chamber Music workshop is the place to be.

Most music camps in the area are day camps, but if your student wants an overnight experience you’ll want to explore Texas Jaam Camp on the Guadalupe River in the Hill Country in July. Music styles will range from bluegrass and cajun to jazz and Western swing.

Shelley Sperry

Nurturing young songwriters holistically

Havilah Rand is a multitalented artist, musician, educator, and coach. She’s back in Austin this fall after several months teaching in the Northwest, so I invited her to join us on the blog to talk about her popular and unusual songwriting workshops for kids.

When I was 9 years old, I spent most of my days exploring the wooded area behind our apartment complex, making up songs on our old piano, dressing up like Laura Ingalls Wilder, and teaching an imaginary classroom of kids. Now I’m 42, and besides the oversized dress and bonnet, things haven’t changed much. I love nature, I love working with young people, and I love writing songs. After two decades of recording and touring, eight years of public and private school teaching, I’ve honed in on where my true talents and passion lie: in helping others discover and express their own unique voice.

This has led me to create my dream job, which is leading songwriting workshops and camps for young people. The mission of these programs is to demonstrate to kids that when we explore the world from an artistic standpoint, we can express our perspective in a way that makes life more interesting and meaningful to ourselves and to others. By infusing a sense of fun and curiosity into all that we do, learning becomes an exciting adventure rather than a mundane routine. Finally, collaborating with others to create a body of work that reflects authentic feelings and experiences has a huge impact on the way we value our own voice as well as the voices of others.

Since their inception out of my one-bedroom apartment three years ago, the Young Songwriter Workshops and Camps have evolved considerably in scope and depth. This summer alone, we worked with approximately 30 kids who wrote over 60 songs using inspiration found in nature, urban adventures, artistic explorations, and connections with one another. We witnessed kids who were paralyzed with anxiety upon arrival yet singing and creating with wild abandon within hours.

Campers who were experiencing turbulence in their personal lives were able to process their feelings through their lyrics as well as through connection with new friends and mentors. For example, Leo wasn’t sure the Orcas Island Songwriting Camp was for him. He’s more of a hip-hop techno kind of a guy, and a songwriting camp with a bunch of little girls didn’t seem very appealing at first. He quickly opened his mind and attitude to the possibilities and took on the role of recording engineer and producer. We watched him exercise qualities of empathy, patience, and leadership as he supported the songwriters during the challenging and sometimes scary recording process. He even ended up emceeing our CD release celebration and was quite the entertainer.

It’s been truly amazing to watch these workshops and camps take on a life of their own with a minimal amount of guidance from adult mentors. I believe the most important things we provide is a framework from which to set goals and a sense of safety and freedom when it comes to self-expression. The goal is to write songs, but as is the case with all artistic endeavors, it is the journey and not so much the destination that really matters. Parents and campers alike have used words such as “transformational” to describe their experience at songwriting camp.

Each day we spend time journaling, manipulating words and pictures we find in magazines and various books, listening to music, exploring the outdoors, and observing humans in their natural habitats such as coffeehouses, grocery stores, and even laundromats. Before too long, the ideas we’ve captured through these activities take the shape of songs that we begin recording immediately so that they don’t “escape.” Participants are given as much freedom or support as their musical skills and personal interests dictate. Some find that they’d rather spend time working on musical ideas, while others focus more on lyrics. There are opportunities to practice performance and vocal skills, engineering techniques, CD cover design, and improvisation with various instruments. Through both introspection and collaboration, a collection of great songs is the final product of our creative effort.

Like every dedicated teacher and performer, I get anxious just before the start of each workshop. And without fail, as soon as we begin, I am delighted by the qualities that each young person brings and am reminded that children are innately nonjudgmental and creative and have a natural ability to open their hearts and minds to new experiences. Young Songwriter programs provide an opportunity to experience life as brave and open-hearted adventurers with an appreciation of uniqueness in ourselves and in others. This enables authentic self-expression, which ultimately leads to greater happiness and the sharing of our gifts with the world.

I am offering the following Young Songwriters Camps and Workshops this fall in the Austin area:

Young Songwriters Camp at Integrity Academy
For Ages 7–13
September 28 – October 1, 9am–3pm
Integrity Academy at Casa De Luz

Young Songwriters After-School Workshops
Ages 7–18
October 6–November 11
Tuesdays 3:15–4:30pm, Integrity Academy
Wednesdays 3:45–5pm, Austin Village Academy

Songwriting camps and workshops are mobile and adaptable to many settings and time frames. Contact me at to explore the possibilities. And check out to learn even more.

Havilah Rand