Island Beat: A Music Nature Camp

Imagine a place that fosters creativity in music (and in life) and the only measurement of success is showing up and participating.

Imagine a place where you can connect to the deeper rhythms of nature and therefore the deeper rhythms of yourself.

Now imagine a place that combines both these elements. That’s what Island Beat: A Music Nature Camp was like, in a nutshell.

For those of you that don’t know…

This past week myself, Joe Craven, and a team of amazing staff facilitated a summer camp for 9-14 year old kids that connected music and nature, just like Victor Wooten taught us. See, in the Fall of 2009 Jack Barben and I met at Victor Wooten’s first ever Music Nature Camp outside of Nashville, TN. Both of us were totally inspired by what Victor did there and it is also where we both became acquainted with Mr. Craven (he was a guest instructor there).

When we returned home, it went pretty much like this: Jack thought to himself, “I want to run a camp like that for kids and I want Joe Craven to be there.” So he called Joe, Joe said yes, and then he called me and asked if I’d run the nature piece. Last summer we ran a camp and had only 3 kids. This year we had 19!

Over the course of the week we made fire, wrote songs, spent time blindfolded, learned about pulse and rhythm, and spent time making crazy music with each other. Here’s the chorus from a rap the kids wrote called Ninja Flamingo:

I wanna be a flamingo; Wearing all my blingo; Speaking bird lingo; Wearing all my moola like cha-cha-cha chingo, cha-cha-cha chingo, cha-cha-cha chingo, cha-cha-cha chingo, yeeeeaa! (Need I say more here?)

Joe showed us that songwriting is actually a pretty simple thing. In fact, anyone, including you, can do it. Here’s the process:

-Do a word barf. Get yourself a piece of paper and just start barfing words onto the page, any words that interest you.

-Now, take one of those particularly intriguing words and on another piece of paper start to write descriptive sentences. For instance, if your word is lightening…bursting light, fear of death, makes my hairs stand on end, etc… Don’t edit yourself in these two phases. Just write down all your ideas.

-Now take those sentences and begin to craft them into a form. You may need to do some editing here. Play with rhyming or non-rhyming schemes. This is kind of like writing poetry. If you come up against the part of you that believes you can’t do, keep going, you can!

-During this next stage you want to add a melody, chords, and rhythm. You can simply sing what you’ve come up with, pull out your instruments for help, or get someone you know who is musically inclined to collaborate with you.

-You’ve got a song, hooray! It’s as simple as that.

Joe also taught us that any person who walks more than 20 steps consecutively is moving in perfect time, to some kind of pulse. So if you play a musical instrument or sing, you can practice moving as you play. This will help to enrich your natural sense of time. And for those of you that don’t play an instrument or sing, yet, the sound of your feet on pavement or grass or gravel is actually music. You’re playing music and you didn’t even know it. That’s what I love about Joe’s teachings, he makes music accessible to everyone and helps us to remember that music is everywhere. From the cello to the hum of your refrigerator.

It’s the same thing in nature. Music is everywhere; the birds, the insects, the river flowing across rocks. And nature is there for everyone, even if it is in the form of a small urban park. All you have to do is start paying attention and slowing down.

Here’s another chorus from one of the songs the kids wrote this week:

It’s Nature, It’s Music; Open up yourself or you’ll lose it; It’s Nature, It’s Music, Feel the Groove; Let your body move to it.

I think that’s pretty right on.

So, what about you? Are music and/or nature a part of your life? Let me know below, I’d love to hear your  stories.

PS Here’s a picture of my trunk after a week of Music Nature Camp work.

I am sooooo lucky…

Some people carry a briefcase, I carry a flamingo.

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One Response to Island Beat: A Music Nature Camp

  1. Diane Birckbichler says:

    What a wonderful magical teaching and learning experience!

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