Kids hone their music skills at musical summer camp
By AMY KURAS
Special to The Oakland Press
Published: Saturday, August 1, 2009
Some kids are doing science experiments at camp this summer, or sharpening their math skills, or making lanyards.
But kids at the Detroit School of Rock and Pop Music’s summer camp are honing their abilities to rock out and listening to a guitarist for an all-female metal band tell stories from the road.
Jan Kuehnemund, founding guitarist of all-female metal band Vixen, visited the campers at the school in Royal Oak this week. Led by school founder and director Jason Gittinger, Kuehnemund answered questions about the life of a real rock musician.
“It’s an exciting life with lots of travel and interesting people, but there’s also some less than glamorous moments,” she said.
One was when the band was playing in Guam in extreme heat and humidity. The band was playing four sets and in between “we had to go into this creepy little dressing room,” she said. There were enormous cockroaches which they would spray with hairspray to keep them stuck to the wall. Then the power went out. Their drummer tripped and broke her ankle and had to play their last set with a swollen and painful ankle.
Kuehnemund formed the band in 1980 while still in high school with her best friends from school. Eventually, they gained a large following in the Midwest, which spurred them to move to Los Angeles in the mid-1980s, after several lineup changes.
“Someone had told us to check out the Marriott to look for a day job,” she said. “We told them we’d either be their house band or waitress for them.”
Three of the four got jobs as waitresses on the spot, and paid their rent that way until being signed a few years later. The band ended up touring with the Scorpions, Bad Company, Eddie Money and Ozzy Osbourne, to name a few. They disbanded in the mid-1990s and reformed in 2001, with Kuehnemund as the only original member left. They continue to tour and record.
Campers at the Detroit School of Rock and Pop Music are formed into bands by Gittinger, and learn to perform. The focus is on getting them to perform as a group, not so much practicing on their individual instruments. Most of the kids are teens and have a decent bit of experience on their instruments.
Gittinger arranges opportunities for the band to play publicly during their session, including at the Rock Stars, Cars and Guitars exhibit at the Henry Ford. Kuehnemund has a coat and a guitar from one of the band’s videos on display at the exhibit. One of the bands played for her during her visit.
“We definitely know what to watch out for now, like the drama,” said Alie Miller, a camper from Bloomfield Hills who plays drums with singer and guitarist Destiny Douglas of Novi and bassist Diana Otero of Troy in the all-female band Stuck in Zero.
Most of the Detroit School of Rock and Pop Music’s work is with adults who finally want to take their basement noodling on an instrument to the next level, but the summer camps are about giving young musicians the chance to play with a band and really live their passion for music.